Prof gets $100K to keep seniors safe, stylish

NSCAD fashion professor aims to keep elderly individuals safe and looking good.

Gary Markle, one of two recipients of the Canadian Institute of Health and Research funding, hopes to use his grant to give autonomy back to the elderly.

Gary Markle cuts fabric in the NSCAD classrooms. (Photo: Zeina Jreige and Kendra Lovegrove)

Markle was given the $100,000 grant this October and has two years to create a product that may be commercialized by clothing manufacturers. He is an assistant professor in the textile and fashion department at Nova Scotia’s College of Art and Design.

Markle’s idea stems from having to take care of his mother who’s been living with dementia.

“I became really aware of what happens when you age,” he says. “And what happens to one’s sense of self around clothing and the choices that are available currently.”

His aim is to create clothing that allows those who are aging to still be able to have choices and comfort, while at the same time keeping a hold of their independence and dignity.

He says that as humans we react to colours and textures, and that these fashions are more than looking good, they’re about changing your mood and the way a person carries his or her self.

Markle is working with a group of students to research how different clothing schemes will both enhance way-of-life and protect the body from injuries. He wants pants that can absorb urine and fabrics that will diminish harmful bacteria on the skin.

Athletic wear, he says, “can introduce microbes that actually eat the bacteria (on the skin).”

Markle’s mother shows off the house coat that Markle created for her. (Photo: Gary Markle)

One of the most simple, yet tedious obstacles for elderly people is zippering, buttoning and hooking. 

“Can the zipper be improved? I think that’s a really big thing,” he says. “Or do we really need zippers in all of our garments?”

Markle gets frustrated when clothing companies assume that older people don’t have a sense of style. “Why do the colours (always) have to be somber and neutral?” he says.

Markle put on a conference with Sow to Sew, an agricultural group run by his department because he wants to work with local farmers to create sustainable fabrics and products.

In the future he hopes healthcare is looked at through design. He says design is so much more than aesthetic appeal, but that it has the ability to be functional.

If all goes according to plan, Markle hopes other universities such as Saint Mary’s University, Dalhousie University and others in the country can work together to enhance the development of healthcare.

Because of negative stigma associated with aging, Markle feels entitled to speak about his mother’s situation.

“If we can’t share what we’ve experienced – we’re lost,” he says.



One thought on “Prof gets $100K to keep seniors safe, stylish

  1. Way to go , Gary !!!!!
    You have always ben on the “cutting edge”
    Remember potato prints ?

    I’m now in the age bracket - almost - for the designs you are working on , and if i get any bright ideas or problems with why I’m wearing , i;ll let you know.


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