University of Calgary

Spotlight on Sustainability: Daniel Lai

UToday HomeFebruary 22, 2013

Daniel Lai, professor and associate dean (research and partnerships) in the Faculty of Social Work, develops evidenced-based research that’s used by service providers and policy makers to help seniors. Photo by Riley BrandtDaniel Lai, professor and associate dean (research and partnerships) in the Faculty of Social Work, develops evidenced-based research that’s used by service providers and policy makers to help seniors. Photo by Riley BrandtDaniel Lai has spent years studying our aging population — specifically, culturally diverse older people in Calgary. His work provides information for policies and programs that help people stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

The professor and associate dean (research and partnerships) in the Faculty of Social Work is on the board of the Canadian Association of Gerontology, was an Alberta Health Scholar, and sat on the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Aging Advisory Board.

“My work is all geared toward research to help older adults from diverse backgrounds to be more healthy and active in the community,” he says. “In the social work profession, we are always looking at self-determination, mobility of individuals and the capacity for communities to continue for the wellness of their own people.”

From understanding the relationship that culture plays in caring for older people, to how caregivers of frail older adults are also affected by their deteriorating physical and cognitive functioning, Lai has conducted dozens of studies that have helped service providers and policy makers improve the lives of aging adults and their caregivers.

“I believe that researchers cannot just give facts to the community and expect the community to use it,” he says, “but instead researchers need to immerse themselves into the community in order to work with the community to build capacity so that they can further sustain themselves.”

In 2008, Lai was appointed to the province’s Demographic Planning Commission, which oversaw public consultations with Albertans to develop an Aging Population Policy Framework for guiding government decisions.

“I have maintained very close relationships with local organizations that serve older populations and that in itself has become a self-generating capacity to make sure that organizations are able to get the evidenced-based research that will be useful for their program planning and policy implementation,” Lai says.

With the right programs and policies, older adults are able to thrive in their homes and communities for years, he says.

“Many people think that culturally diverse older adults are always dependent on the system using up resources, but I believe that these individuals have a lot of capacity to live a good life for themselves,” he says. “I would like to contribute myself through my research agenda and professional knowledge to work with them to get that state.”

Spotlight on Sustainability is an ongoing series profiling the work of students, faculty and staff. To submit story ideas please contact the Office of Sustainability.


 

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