By News Editor Aislinn Cottell

Statistics Canada states that the number of individuals in Canada over 65 will double in the next 25 years, and according to a recent study, one in three seniors are considered malnourished. Seniors are at a higher risk of physical injury and illness already, and research has found that malnutrition only compounds these problems, leading to higher health risk and a greater tax on the health care system. Due to factors such as slower recovery time and enhanced risk of additional injury and illness during their stay, the average malnourished patient remains in hospital care 2 to 3 days longer than if they were properly nourished before entering. This costs the system approximately $1,600 per day.

Earlier this month, VIU collaborated with Island Health to host an informative and networking workshop event focused on combating older adult malnutrition in Nanaimo and North America. The event began with several speakers, including Paul Hasselback, Medical Health Officer at Island Health and Monica Liefhebber, clinical coordinator of nutrition therapy services at Island Health; Marcy Cohen, research associate and adjunct faculty at CCPA and SFU; John Horn, Nanaimo city planner; and Peter Sinclair, executive director of Loaves and Fishes foodbank. They spoke to several issues including the causes and impacts of malnutrition in seniors, and strategies for both individuals and health care systems in improving nutritional health. Afterwards, a break-out session was held to discuss the information provided, and brainstorm solutions.

In order to help meet the Island and country’s need for services and care in this area, VIU will be offering a new diploma program in gerontology, the study of old age, the aging process, and the specific problems of elderly people. The first two 15-week fully online courses will be available to students in January 2017. GERO 300: Psycho-Social Perspectives on Aging will be an interdisciplinary overview of psychological and sociological theories, processes, and experiences of aging. GERO 506: Diversity and the Experience of Aging will explore how ethno-racial diversity, gender, and sexual orientation intersects with the experience of aging and consider how complex issues of aging uniquely impact diverse older populations. The courses will be offered as 3-credit electives to upper-level graduate students.

Aislinn is a third year Bachelor of Arts and Science student majoring in creative writing and minoring in chemistry. New to The Nav team this year, she’s enjoying finding out about all the interesting things happening on campus. Her hobbies include reading, drawing, Netflix, and the copious consumption of coffee.