September 14, 2012 | News

Former University of Waterloo professor named an officer of the Order of Canada for his commitment to helping others, through initiatives including the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA).

Reprinted from Waterloo News
By Tenille Bonoguore
Communications & Public Affairs

Age may be getting the best of them, but there is much to learn from the silver-haired residents who will soon be living on the University of Waterloo’s North Campus.

In an initiative that’s the first of its kind in Canada, a long-term care facility will be built as part of the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA).

Ron Schlegel, the former health studies and gerontology professor who co-owns Schlegel Villages, is the primary donor and driving force behind the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging.

In December 2012, Schlegel was named an officer of the Order of Canada for his commitment to helping others, through efforts including the new research institute.

Inside “living classrooms”, University of Waterloo faculty, researchers, and students will work alongside Conestoga College personal-care students and practical nurses on projects informed largely by residents’ feedback.

The research and training will impact front-line care, shape curricula and build capacity within the aged-care sector.

That’s thanks largely to the strict focus of RIA President and research gatekeeper Mike Sharratt, who insists that all research either improves quality of life or quality of care.

“People don’t come to Schlegel Villages to die,” says Sharratt. “They come here to thrive.”

A partnership with impact

The RIA already conducts research in 11 Schlegel Villages across the province, but this will be the first facility to be built on a university campus. Demographic shifts and rising health-care costs drive the need for researched care. About 238,000 Ontarians will need long-term care by 2035, up from 98,000 today.

Phase One of the north-campus development — beginning in the fall of 2012 to begin construction this fall — includes a 192-bed long-term-care facility, with an adjacent three-storey building for the RIA. It will open in late 2014.

When all three phases are complete in 2014, the Schlegel community will be home to 680 seniors, ranging from retirees in self-contained apartments to full-care recipients in the long-term care wing.

In addition to a significant donation from the Schlegel family, Schlegel Villages, the Ontario Government, the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College are providing funding for the $130-million project. Revenue generated by the long-term care facility will go back into research at the RIA.

“It’s a culture change putting residents first. I don’t think, in many cases, they have been asked, ‘What do you need?’ or, ‘What would make your life better?’ ” Sharratt says.

“We want to see it through their eyes.”