Defining Healthy Aging in New Brunswick

Noulab, New Brunswick’s public and social innovation lab, spearheaded by New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network (NBSPRN) and UNB’s Pond-Deshpande Centre (PDC), asked the Collaborative for Healthy Aging and Care to join the multi-sector lab team in exploring the ways in which provincial stakeholders can address NB’s challenges in a different way.

Six members of the Collaborative representing the province’s senior information centres, the not-for-profit sector, government and academia, came together to take advantage of the opportunity and formed the healthy aging lab.

Much like peeling the layers of an onion, the sessions pushed lab members to move beyond the symptoms of the challenge they were grappling with to rediscover the problem underneath. Once rediscovered and better understood, each lab explored how to intervene and address the problem in an actionable way that will eventually lead to better outputs and outcomes. This will result in true systemic and cultural change that will positively impact the way we experience aging in New Brunswick. 

The Lab process wrapped up during NB’s Innovation Week, and the healthy aging lab was one of four labs invited to pitch their problem and solution to Members of Cabinet. Read the pitch transcript in its entirety below.

Baby boomers. They’re not babies anymore. And we hear in the news, as far reaching as MacLean’s Magazine that New Brunswick is going to fall off of the fiscal cliff, as baby boomers begin to retire. Our expenses are going to go up, as our revenues go down.

Many have bought into this storyline, because if it’s in MacLean’s Magazine, then it must be true. But it’s not just a financial problem of checks and balances. It’s much more complex than that.

The healthy aging lab, also members of the Collaborative for Healthy Aging and Care and the newly appointed Council on Aging, has been grappling with this problem for 4 years now.  And through the social lab process, we were able to dig deeper, and really tunnel in – because aging and aging well is a complex issue.

Just look at the social determinants of health that have the greatest impact on healthy aging. After income, the five determinants having the greatest impact on how a person ages are food security, adequate housing, transportation and access to primary health and long term care.

Look around the room today. The social labs present are dealing with the majority of these – either directly or indirectly. We can’t isolate this stuff because they all impact the other and are intricately connected.

And to make things even more complex, each NB community is different. They each have a different mix of challenges based on unique socioeconomic, cultural and historical factors. Because of this, it’s next to impossible to create a top-down policy approach that is going to succeed in the transition we are facing as a province. We won’t solve the problem through policy alone.

Communities are a key foundation of society, and they are part of the solution in solving the challenges we face as a province. The approach is to arm communities in meeting government halfway.

Some communities are doing some of this type of work already. The Village of Gagetown’s Transportation Project is but one example where the community took a proactive approach in meeting the needs of its aging population using the assets they have – an available bus and a handful of volunteer drivers.  When there is a will there is a way.

The Healthy Aging Lab will be creating a readiness tool kit that assists communities in understanding where they are – not what their needs are, because this leads to a discussion of wanting more, but in rediscovering their assets. What do they bring to the table that can help solve problems with more autonomy? How can they leverage their assets for the betterment of the community as a whole?

We plan to do something cheap and simple by prototyping a community readiness tool kit, and do limited trials in a number of communities to iron out the kinks before wide dissemination. We believe that with a few successes using this approach, communities will begin learning and copying each other. This will then create systemic and cultural change in how we perceive our communities, and how we define and manage aging for the citizens of NB.



Beth Arsenault, is the Program Coordinator of the Collaborative for Healthy Aging and Care. The New Brunswick Collaborative for Healthy Aging and Care is a growing coalition representing 50+ stakeholder organizations whose programs support New Brunswick's senior population. It focuses its efforts in collaborating with organizations and individual citizens interested in healthy aging and care. Specifically, the Collaborative meets to determine the ways in which NB stakeholders can work together to shape aging in our communities by developing unique partnerships to build system capacity, impact culture and affect needed policy.

If you would like to learn more, get involved, join the conversation, or receive Neighbours in Aging, our quarterly newsletter, please contact us by visiting our website, facebook CHAC / CVSS, twitter @CHACCVSSNB or by email

Beth Arsenault, BSc, BA, est la Coordonatrice de programme du Collectif pour le santé et soins.

« Le Collectif pour le vieillissement en santé et soins », une coalition grandissante qui représente plus de 50 intervenants dont les programmes soutiennent la population âgée, concentre ses efforts sur la collaboration avec les organisations et les citoyens individus qui s'intéressent au vieillissement en santé et aux soins. Spécifiquement, le Collectif se réunit régulièrement pour déterminer comment les intervenants du N.-B. peuvent travailler ensemble pour refaçonner l'expérience de vieillissement dans nos communautés en développant des partenariats uniques pour renforcer les capacités du système, changer la culture et mener aux changements politiques nécessaires.

Veuillez nous contacter si vous voulez en savoir plus, participer à la conversation, ou recevoir notre bulletin trimestriel «Viellir ensemble », en visitant notre site de web, facebook CHAC / CVSS, twitter @CHACCVSSNB ou par courriel


Amanda Hachey