CBU to Engage Seniors in National Research on Dementia Prevention

Cape Breton University is taking an important step to support healthy communities as it prepares to open its newest research centre. CBU’s Centre of Excellence for Healthy Aging will soon open its office in downtown Sydney and will get straight to work to advance its research program this summer. The Centre’s mandate is to engage in research that promotes better health care for older adults, including the acutely ill, and will actively contribute to the training of healthcare professionals and refining supports for an aging population. CBU’s Associate Vice President of Research, Dr. Tanya Brann-Barrett, says the Centre is an example of CBU’s commitment to local priorities.

“The Centre of Excellence for Healthy Aging is an incredible addition to Cape Breton University’s focus on research to support healthy and thriving communities,” says Dr. Brann-Barrett. “It will help us to advance our interests in community-based research and practice, population health, rural health and Indigenous health research.”

In its inaugural project, the Centre will work with the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) as a partner in a national study designed to reduce risk factors for dementia by examining the impact of prevention. This study will target people aged 60-85 from across Canada to take part in a one-year study using Brain Health PRO (BHPro), an online program that offers interactive education and activities to empower older adults to improve their physical and mental health. Participants will receive portable EEG headsets to measure their brain activity during sleep and accelerometers to track their physical activity. CBU’s Centre of Excellence for Healthy Aging will coordinate the research in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, with partner institutions leading the work in other provinces.

With the rise of dementia expected to affect nearly one million Canadians over the next 12 years, the Centre’s principal investigator, Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, says dementia prevention has gained attention as an urgent national health priority.

“We’re excited to offer seniors an opportunity to take part in something that will contribute to their own healthy aging. We are excited too to see how this informs dementia prevention over the long term,” says Dr. Rockwood. “In a region with the highest proportion of seniors in Canada, it’s important to have that local experience represented in the CCNA study.”

Dr. Rockwood is a specialist in geriatric medicine, recognized worldwide for his work in frailty and dementia. Among his credits, the Halifax doctor is a geriatrician and Professor of Medicine at Dalhousie University. He leads Nova Scotia Health’s new Frailty & Elder Care Network. He was recognized with the Ryman Prize in 2021, an annual $250,000 international award for the world’s best discovery, development, advance or achievement that enhances quality of life for older people. Dr. Rockwood contributed a portion of the prize to CBU’s Centre of Excellence for Healthy Aging. With $700,000 in funding from Research Nova Scotia, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Wellness and Nova Scotia Health, Dr. Rockwood played an important role in making the new research centre a reality. CBU President and Vice-Chancellor, David Dingwall, congratulates Dr. Rockwood and the research team as they get started on this initial project.

“Cape Breton University is proud to foster research that supports local, provincial and national priorities,” says President Dingwall. “Under the leadership of Dr. Rockwood, CBU’s Centre of Excellence in Healthy Aging is poised to make positive impacts on the front lines of healthcare.”

To learn more about the Centre of Excellence for Healthy Aging and its current research projects, visit cbu.ca/healthyaging.