By Matthew Sheriko
Despite always possessing an interest in aging and care, Daphne Noonan says she discovered an attraction to the Gerontology Programme at St. Thomas accidentally. When looking for an elective course in her second year, she chose one in gerontology, the field that would eventually become her major.
Looking back, she believes that the close relationship she formed with her four grandparents, and what she learned from them, fostered her interest in aging care.
“I am inspired by the next generation of older adults, as my own parents, aunts and uncles are carving out their own version of what ‘aging’ means,” says Noonan. “I find it fascinating to watch them challenge assumptions of aging and create new expectations of what the ‘older adult’ looks like.”
St. Thomas served as a springboard for her career working with older adults.
She eventually complemented her gerontology degree with a diploma in Therapeutic Recreation and Gerontology, and a master’s in adult education. She now looks after programs like narrative care, music care, animal assisted therapy and sensory stimulation at the York Care Centre in Fredericton where she is the manager of Therapeutic Recreation.
“Each of these initiatives promotes a culture of care that is not solely focused on the medical or biological, but the whole person and what it means to support older adults in care settings as they grow old with dignity and honour,” says Noonan.
Recently, she added a new role by joining the Atlantic Institute on Aging as a consultant. She’ll now divide her time between York Care Centre and the institute where she will be leading the development of a number of approaches to support aging, both in residential settings and the community. She also serves as president of the board of the Alzheimer’s Society of New Brunswick.
Applying Knowledge Everyday
“I apply knowledge from my degree each and every day in my professional life. Due to the baby boomers and the increased prevalence of Alzheimer’s and related dementia, we are at a very unique time in history when it comes to aging care,” says Noonan. “Many of the paradigms we have come to live within will need to be challenged and rebuilt in order to meet the needs of the field.”
Noonan encourages young students to consider studying gerontology as it crosses many disciplines and provides many opportunities academically and in the community.
She credits her professors at St. Thomas for helping guide her on the path to a career in aging care.
“I cannot say enough about the faculty in this program. They are all extremely open and have wonderful relationships with their students. The faculty have continued to give of their time and energy and continue to mentor and guide me as a professional over the years, which is an invaluable gift that I am grateful for.”