Science & Research

Dr. Verena Menec

BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012

Nothing would please Dr. Verena Menec more than helping to make Manitoba the best place on earth to grow old. And she has spent much of her career trying to do just that.

A professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Medicine, Menec is considered a leader in working to make Manitoba "age-friendly," a term used to describe an approach to creating a welcoming environment for the province's aging population.

As Menec explains, an "age-friendly" community is one that provides a wide range of supports. It's about affordable and safe housing, accessible transportation and welcoming neighbourhoods as much as it is about providing comprehensive health-care services. Without these basics, seniors are hard-pressed to live healthy, fulfilled lives.

"If you're a senior and you don't have transportation, you can't get to the health-care services," says Menec, a social psychologist specializing in gerontology who has been studying age-friendly programs in communities across the province.

What she's found is that while many communities do some things very well, such as providing affordable housing, they may not do a good job of linking that housing with good transportation.

"Many communities have fragmented services and we end up with people who aren't healthy and don't have as good a quality of life as possible," says Menec, a Canada Research Chair in Healthy Aging and Director of the Centre on Aging at the U of M.

Menec says her work aims to bring seniors, their families and government departments together to create an age-friendly province that will improve the well-being of aging Manitobans. It's a multi-pronged approach for preventive health care, making sure every Manitoban and government department understands the connection between healthy communities and healthy seniors.

"If seniors are healthier, they have a better quality of life and ultimately less use of the health-care system."

Wave: November / December 2012

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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