Our Researchers

Julia Abelson

Professor, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact

Carol Bassim

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact

Marla Beauchamp

Associate Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Science

Sandra Carroll

Executive Director, Associate Professor, School of Nursing

Andrew Costa

Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Lisa Dolovich

Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine

Kathryn Fisher

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

Rebecca Ganann

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

Lauren Griffith

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact

Sharon Kaasalainen

Professor, School of Nursing

Larkin Lamarche

Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine

John Lavis

Professor, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact

Jinhui Ma

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact

Dee Mangin

Professor, Department of Family Medicine

Maureen Markle-Reid

Scientific Director, MIRA | Collaborative for Health & Aging

Kalpana Nair

Research Associate, School of Nursing

Alexandra Papaioannou

Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine

Jenny Ploeg

Professor, School of Nursing, Department of Health , Aging and Society

Parminder Raina

Scientific Director, MIRA | Collaborative for Health & Aging

Diana Sherifali

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing

Jean-Éric Tarride

Associate Professor, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact

Brenda Vrkljan

Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Science 

Michael Wilson

Associate Professor,  Department of Health Evidence and Impact

Collaborations and Partnerships

Promote collaborations and partnerships which facilitates, connects and integrates activities across the province, that engages patients, researchers, clinicians, policy makers and other health system stakeholders, and builds capacity for Ontario to champion evidence- and value-informed decisions for health care improvements.

Pivoting with older adults during COVID-19

Published: September 9, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended plans, closed businesses, forced people into isolation and turned society upside down. For seniors, the impact has been even more marked, with increased vulnerability both to the disease, and to the effects of isolation as a result of public health guidance to socially distance.  

The MIRA | Collaborative on Health & Aging, an OSSU Research Centre focused on supporting healthy aging and encouraging patient partnership in research, has pivoted to catch the curve balls thrown by the pandemic.

From creating toolkits for patients and caregivers to offering webinars on patient partnership, virtual care and more, the MIRA Collaborative team members have deftly adapted to the challenge of COVID-19 and its effect on research projects.

A major research project designed to test hospital-to-home transitional care for older stroke patients from a hospital-based stroke rehabilitation clinic was put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of this CIHR-funded research project is to improve the quality of hospital-to-home transitions for older stroke patients. The program will be delivered by an interprofessional team of healthcare providers and involves regular in-home visits, monthly interprofessional team case conferences, system navigation support, and use of an m-health app to facilitate communication among the team.

Partners at Hamilton Health Sciences and Hotel Dieu Shaver Hospital in St. Catharine’s were onboard. But when the pandemic hit, outpatient departments were closed, staff were re-deployed, and the initiation of this research was temporarily delayed.

“The bottom line was we were all set to go and COVID came along,” says Dr. Maureen-Markle Reid, Scientific Co-lead, MIRA | Collaborative on Health & Aging at McMaster University in Hamilton, and principal investigator of the study. “We have two patient research partners with stroke experience – one had a stroke two to three years ago, another last year. They were helping with the study, helping with data collection, all aspects, including recruitment and consent.”

The new program being tested by the research team now involves a hybrid approach, with guidelines to determine who will receive at home visits and who will have virtual visits. Patient and caregiver research partners will continue to work with the researchers to adapt the research to the new reality.

“We need to adjust to this new realism and deliver our program in a different way,” says Dr. Markle-Reid. “We are still planning to do visits, use the app and hold case conferences but we’re not sure if it will be in person or virtual.”

Reduced physical activity and the inability to carry out daily activities are risk factors for frailty, hospitalizations, and premature death. These challenges are compounded during the COVID-19 pandemic for older adults living in areas with high inequities such as lower income and lack of community supports. The EMBOLDEN trial, co-led by Dr. Rebecca Ganann and funded by the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) is a research initiative to promote mobility and social connections for older adults living in areas with high health inequities. The research team is working with citizen partners, health and social service providers to develop an intervention that will enhance mobility through nutrition, social participation, community activity, recreation and more.

“With COVID, we have had to shift design of the study as the local landscape of services has changed – some programs are no longer available so we need to change the intervention,” says Dr. Rebecca Ganann, a researcher at MIRA and an associate professor at McMaster University. “What we were envisioning will shift: we’ll move to virtual data collection.”

“All of us have had our mobility impacted by COVID,” she says. “Many people are getting out less often, feeling less connected so there is an opportunity to make a big impact in the community. Even if we could go forward with a group-based approach, will people feel comfortable? We need to be agile to adapt.”

Access to technology is now essential, but also another hurdle for the researchers and patient partners to overcome.

“Because we are dealing with people with social inequities, we are grappling with the digital divide – some people don’t have digital access so we are working with citizen partners to plan how to best address this,” says Dr. Ganann.

The research team has linked with a broad range of community and social service partners in Hamilton, such as public health, city housing, transportation, parks and recreation, United Way, the YMCA/YWCAs and other community agencies to increase access to services and social connections. These partners helped to recruit patient partners, and to ensure engagement of diverse patient partners, the team conducted outreach to priority neighbourhoods.

In engaging older vulnerable adults in research, it is critical to understand their unique circumstances and perspectives.

“We need to understand the lived reality of people living with several health conditions, who have lots of appointments and challenges,” says Dr. Ganann. “Some like in-person meetings, others want to call in if they can’t get away because of caregiving. Having a menu of options of how to get engaged and choose level of engagement is really important.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, patient engagement in research with and for older adults continues, with a few tweaks, at this leading research institution.

Resources for patients and caregivers

To help patients and caregivers, the MIRA Collaborative also developed a range of tools and resources for patients and caregivers, including the DIVERT-CARE COVID toolkit to identify vulnerable home care patients and the COVID Caregiver Back-Up Plan tool for caregivers to communicate information about caring for their loved ones, especially when regular caregiving schedules have been interrupted or changed.

This article was first published on the OSSU. Read the original article here.

Our History

Two established research platforms of McMaster University collaborate to address the diverse needs of Ontario’s older adult population and fill the gap in aging expertise for patient-oriented researchers in Ontario.

Older adults range in age from 65 to 105 and represent widely varying health and social needs, yet this growing cohort is often grouped in one category. Just as a 10-year-old would not be compared to a 30-year-old when conducting research, a 65-year-old and a 95-year-old should not be either. To address the diverse needs of Ontario’s older adult population, two established research platforms of McMaster University, the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) and the McMaster School of Nursing’s Aging, Community and Health Research Unit (ACHRU), formed the MIRA | Collaborative for Health and Aging.

The Collaborative is a network of 15 health research centres across the province that provide scientific knowledge and support high quality patient-partnered research with the goal of improving health and the health system. In 2019, the Collaborative received $300,000 in 2019 from the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit (OSSU) to establish its activities over the course of this year.

By supporting and advancing patient and caregiver-partnered research in aging, the Collaborative seeks to advance Ontario’s health care system and enhance health system performance and patients’ experiences. By addressing the unique needs of older adults and their caregivers through resources, consultation supports, data access, and technical services, the new research centre will position Ontario as a leader in patient-oriented research in aging.

Co-scientific Directors:

The co-leads of the Collaborative are the scientific directors of MIRA and ACHRU respectively, Parminder Raina and Maureen Markle-Reid. Raina is a professor of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact (HEI) at McMaster and lead investigator of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA).  Markle-Reid is also a professor in nursing at McMaster and holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Person-Centered Interventions for Older Adults with Multimorbidity and their Family Caregivers.

Parminder Raina

Scientific Director, MIRA
Professor, HEI, McMaster University

“The focus of the collaborative is on supporting older adults in our research, knowing that there is no typical older person. In the same way you wouldn’t compare a 10-year-old to a 30-year-old, you cannot compare a 65-year-old to a 95-year-old.”

-Parminder Raina

“We are looking forward to working with stakeholders from across Ontario to develop a robust research agenda that engages patients and their families and improves the health and well-being of older people.”

-Maureen Markle-Reid

Maureen Markle-Reid

Scientific Director, ACHRU
Professor, School of Nursing, McMaster University

Organizational structure

The Collaborative’s organizational structure draws upon expertise from researchers, knowledge users, trainees, patients and caregivers, and staff.  ​It ensures that objectives are realized, resources are well managed, and the interests of all ​stakeholders— members, partners, and end users–are protected and reflected in key decisions. ​Governance structures and systems are as follows: 

Click on the bubbles bellow for more information on our areas of expertise:

Scientific Co-leads

Parminder Raina

Scientific Director, McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA)

Maureen Markle-Reid

Scientific Director, Aging, Community and Health Research Unit (ACHRU)

Program Coordinator

Jennifer Salerno

Research Associate, School of Nursing, McMaster University

Our Funder

The MIRA | Collaborative for Health & Aging is one of the 15 research centres that makes up the Ontario Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) Support Unit (OSSU). These organizations work together, and in concert with the OSSU Coordinating Centre, to provide Ontario’s health system stakeholders with the infrastructure, scientific knowledge and technical support needed to conduct patient-oriented research, and to inform and implement more effective health policy and clinical practices throughout the province.

The Collaborative supports and facilitates relationships with older adults, researchers, health system decision-makers and health care providers across Ontario to accelerate patient-oriented point-of-care improvements that are based on evidence and co-designed with older Ontarians, frontline providers and policy makers. We continue to build capacity for the province and support researchers and other stakeholders to conduct patient-oriented research by developing
resources and supports and offering consultation services.

Supports we can provide:

  • Access to Data Platforms and Services
  • Methods Support & Development
  • Health Systems, Knowledge Translation and Implementation
  • Real World Clinical Trials
  • Career Development
  • Consultation and Research Services
  • Patient Engagement in Research

Click here to learn more about the Ontario SPOR Support Unit