We invest every second, minute, and hour chasing after our dreams, ambitions, and futures.

We often forget to spend time with our aging loved ones.

On Sept. 28, a Grad talk on “Health, Age, and Wellbeing” was held in the Science Teaching Complex. PhD candidates Kaylen Pfisterer and Samantha Biglieri inspired an audience of different ages and backgrounds.

Jeff Casello, associate vice president of GRADtalks, warmly welcomed everyone to the third speech titled: “Beyond 60: ‘Health, Age, and Wellbeing.’”

Casello proudly stated that the “University of Waterloo is a place for those who excel to excel” and then handed things over to Pfisterer and Biglieri.

Pfisterer began her journey at the University of Waterloo as an undergraduate of biomedical science.

“I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor but I knew I wanted to help people,” Pfisterer said, now a successful PhD student.

After her undergraduate studies, she worked for Schlegel UW research institution for aging, where she was diagnosed with a B12 deficiency.

After nourishing herself with a healthy diet, “[she] was a changed woman.”

She came to the understanding that, through the aging process, individuals become more susceptible to malnutrition.

“Life can feel out of control. However, two things we can control is what we eat and our lifestyles,” said Pfisterer proudly.

She quoted Hippocrates, saying “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Following her dietary change, Pfisterer then earned her Masters in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, where she began to work towards her goal of developing the perfect meal to prevent malnutrition.

She worked specifically on nutrient density, or the proportion of nutrients in food.

From her studies, Pfisterer found out that aging means a smaller appetite, but often, increased nutritional needs.

In particular, 45 per cent of older adults in long-term care homes are malnourished.

Learning this, Pfisterer questioned which tools could better identify risk proactively and lead to improved health and wellbeing.

She thus believes that technology is a more reliable source to track healthy diet.

Diving into an unfamiliar area, she started her PhD in engineering at the University of Waterloo.

She and her team are working on technology that could show bulk intake assessments, nutritional intake breakdown, and intake trends over time.

“Nourishment is required for life,” and through this, people can “thrive not merely survive,” Pfisterer concluded.

Biglieri, on the other hand, began her adventure in a liberal arts university, when her grandmother was diagnosed with dementia.

The news struck espcecially hard when she realised that her grandma would no longer be able to drive or walk without getting lost, even in the most familiar of places.

She also gets overwhelmed by noises and loses her memory.

“Her whole world shrunk,” recalled Biglieri.

This got her thinking – “What are we doing for our elderly comminity members living with dementia?”

This led Biglieri in her search for ways to make life better and more accessible for people with dementia.

Given her close familial experience with the illness, she decided to work towards dementia-inclusive cities.

Thus, Biglieri began her Masters of urban planning and continued on to pursue PhD in the faculty of environment.

Before the audience on Sept. 28, she spoke specifically about how environment can affect the well-being and health of an individual and how the overall number of people with disabilities is increasing.

It is estimated that people with disabilities will increase from 47 million in 2011 to an estimated 114 million in 2050.

As these figures grow, Biglieri stressed the importancre of a world in which people with dementia are not only included, but fully valued.

People with disabilities “deserve to be accommodated for their needs and be able to participate in our society,” she said.

Thus she and a team of people put together an app called Photovoice, which allows individuals to share public consultations with others and become “masters of their own narrative.”

Biglieri concluded the speech with her hope of changing the conversation around people with disabilities and the way we see our elderly community members and loved ones.

The passionate speakers ended their talk to strong applause from the audience.


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