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Dr Anthea Innes, professor Health Aging and Society and Gilbrea Chair in Aging and Mental Health

Meet Dr Anthea Innes

On January 1, 2022, McMaster’s Health, Aging and Society program welcomed Dr Anthea Innes, professor Health Aging and Society and Gilbrea Chair in Aging and Mental Health. She sat down with the communications team to discuss her journey to McMaster and her plans for her time here.

Jan 27, 2022

 

  1. Where are you from? What did you do before you came to McMaster?

I am from Scotland and have worked as an academic for my entire career. My first full-time academic post was at the University of Bradford as a researcher while also studying for my doctorate. I then returned to Scotland to the University of Stirling, where I had studied for my undergraduate and master’s degrees while also working as a teaching assistant and research assistant and ‘learning my trade’. I have very fond memories of my time at Stirling and was fortunate to work with great colleagues on interesting research projects, as well as developing an online post-graduate programme in Dementia Studies.

I then had a few years working in the South of England at Bournemouth University, my first post as full Professor, where I set up a cross-faculty institute known as BUDI (Bournemouth University Dementia Institute). I secured funding for around 40 projects in my time at Bournemouth and established a cohort of 10 doctoral students working on dementia topic doctorates, before moving back to Scotland and working at both the Universities of Stirling and Salford. I had a one-way, five-hour door-to-door commute while living in Scotland and working at Salford. That was not a fun part of the job!

I went on to work at the University of Salford for five years as the Director of the Salford Institute for Dementia and the Universities’ first Professor of Dementia. I set up a programme for local people living with dementia and their care partners living in the community. Initiatives included music groups, a gardening group, a panel designed to engage local people living with dementia and care partners in the research, community engagement and education work undertaken at the University. Working with people living with dementia in this way was the most enjoyable aspect of my work at Salford! I love working in partnership with different people from different backgrounds who often have different perspectives and views. It makes life interesting.

 

  1. What got you interested in gerontology?

So, this goes back 25 years. While studying for my master’s, I secured a part-time job as an activities organiser in a care home. I really enjoyed the challenge of finding activities that residents, particularly those with dementia, could engage in and have fun. I worked in a couple of homes during my two-year master’s programme and undertook my master’s research in care homes exploring care assistants’ perceptions of residents as ‘difficult’. Following my observation that those who were often labelled difficult were often those who also had a diagnosis of dementia, and whose behaviours were difficult, at first glance anyway, to understand. 

My grandmother also had Parkinson's related dementia and my first visit to a hospital where she was placed while recovering from a broken arm after a fall at home was a real eye opener for me. I also saw people convinced they were reliving a bombing during the second world war, others calling for their long-dead mother for comfort, and the general lack of stimulation and what I would now describe as lack of care for older people placed in this unit while awaiting recovery from physical ailments alongside those with mental health issues really got me questioning the system!

My family supported my grandmother, and she lived at home until her death. This also influenced me, as I saw how difficult it was for them to obtain appropriate support and help, which could enable them to meet my grandmother’s wishes to remain at home while also juggling their working and family lives.

 

  1.     What are your teaching and research interests?

I am a social scientist who has specialised in dementia for the last 25 years. At the core of my work is a concern to engage with the lived experiences of those affected by dementia, specifically, those diagnosed with the condition, their family members and professional care supporters. My research interests span the care continuum from pre-diagnosis to end of life. Specifically, my research interests include rurality, technology and creative approaches to supporting those living with dementia.

My teaching at McMaster in my first semester here is a special interest course on dementia exploring the impact of the physical and social environments on living well with dementia. Since my time at the University of Stirling as the inaugural programme director for the first worldwide online post-graduate programme in dementia studies, my teaching has focused on research methods, theory and practice in dementia. I have also taught courses in generic research methods, race and ethnicity, and sociology of the family. 

I also really enjoy doctoral-level supervision and have served as part of supervisory teams for many students over the years. Particularly enjoyable is when students go on to work alongside me on projects, publishing peer review papers and other research outputs together. I love to see students develop and often exceed their expectations in their abilities!

 

  1.     Is there any research that you’re working on right now that you can share with us?

I am completing a qualitative research study with colleagues from the University of Salford exploring the views and experiences of diagnostic and therapy radiography practitioners when caring for persons living with dementia in hospital radiography departments. The UK Royal College of Radiographers funds this work.

I am also part of the RADAR team directed by Dr Debra Morgan at the University of Saskatchewan. I am looking forward to developing new research projects and working with colleagues at McMaster to contribute to the research profile within the Department of Health, Aging and Society based on the great work that my colleagues have already undertaken.

 

  1.     What would your students be surprised to learn about you?

I love Cadbury chocolate buttons (the giant size ones!) and I am missing my favourite chocolate hit since arriving in Canada.