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November 26, 2012

An interest in gerontology led to hands-on research

In her late teens and early 20s, Thea Brown spent a lot of time volunteering with organizations such as Meals on Wheels and adult day programs, projects dedicated to making life easier for seniors. While obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree in Ontario, Thea spent the majority of her weekends with her Nana, and scheduled regular visits with an elderly lady diagnosed with dementia. She developed a passion for this work, and her post-graduate direction became clear.

Thea Brown“I decided that I was bound for Gerontology, which led me to the Mount.”

Thea enrolled at the Mount as a Masters of Arts student within the Family Studies and Gerontology program, and applied for and accepted a part-time position with the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging (NSCA), a research body affiliated with the University whose area of expertise are focused on issues related to family caregiving, continuing care and the healthy aging.  She was also able to work as a research assistant for Dr. Janice Keefe, the Mount’s Lena Isabel Jodrey Chair in Gerontology and the Director of the NSCA who later became Thea’s thesis advisor, and the two worked on a project that assessed the physical environment of adult day programs for persons with dementia. Their findings were recently presented during NSCA’s 20th Anniversary Conference held in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Working with Dr. Keefe was an incredible pleasure,” says Brown. “She is a tremendously caring and supportive supervisor and mentor, one that I will always be grateful for.”

After graduating with her Masters in the spring of 2012, Thea moved back to her home province of British Columbia, where she is currently working with the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (affiliated with the University of British Columbia in Vancouver) on a project that is assessing the role that the built environment plays on the older populations’ mobility.

Reflecting on her time at the Mount, Thea is most impressed with her ability to partake in hands-on research with leading experts such as Dr. Keefe and Pamela Fancey, Associate Director of NSCA.

“My significant experiences at the Mount were all from working so closely with Dr. Keefe and Pamela Fancey,” said Thea. “I attribute my success both during my degree and since graduating, to this team of support.”

Thea is now weighing her options which possibly include a PhD or working towards a second Master’s Degree. One thing is certain; her work will always have a focus on making life better for the elderly.

“The research I conducted stemmed from my passion to work with the elderly and to work towards improving support systems that enhance their overall quality of life, and that of their caregivers,” says Brown. “With the support of my thesis committee, this passion only flourished and has led me into knowing that I would like to remain in the field of gerontology throughout my career.”