Keeping Mom & Dad at home: designing environments for older people
With Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould (UBC Department of Family Practice, Centre for Hip Health & Mobility)
How do we keep Mom and Dad at home as they get older? What makes a good place to grow old? And when we find answers to this, who do we share them with…and how best to share?
These complex questions were tackled on February 21st when Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould (@joaniesimsgould) joined Evening Rounds to tell us how her work helps people to grow old in communities where they have friends, supports and purpose. With an engaging, interactive presentation, Joanie introduced us to her research into healthy aging and gave the audience a sample of some unique and powerful knowledge translation outcomes.
Programs of research
Joanie’s research is founded on a framework for sustained impact that emphasizes a socio-ecological approach, an interdisciplinary team and participatory action research methods. A key to the success of her research is involving seniors as participants in multiple aspects of each program, from planning project timelines to holding open houses and forums to communicating research outcomes.
Joanie gave an overview of three current research programs on health, mobility and the built environment, then shared research that has since evolved into a service delivery model.
Walk the Talk examines the relationships between older adult mobility and built / social environments, with a focus on mobility among lower income older adults in the Greater Vancouver area.
Active Streets, Active People - Senior (ASAP) evaluates how the interaction of built and social environments impacts the mobility of older adults in a high-density urban neighbourhood, with an eye to short, medium and long-term impacts.
Active Streets, Active People – Foreign Born studies health and mobility-related issues for elderly people who are foreign-born, living in South Vancouver neighbourhoods and at risk of social isolation.
Active Aging BC (ABC) is an evidence-based program that seeks to improve the health, mobility and social connection of BC seniors by promoting physical activity and building community capacity to support opportunities for physical activity. One research outcome is Choose to Move, a six month personal planning and support program that encourages greater physical activity among older adults that are not already engaged in regular activity. Offered in 55 locations across BC, evaluation of “Choose to Move” indicates that it has led to increased physical activity and increased social interaction amongst participants.
Publication in peer-reviewed journals is a cornerstone of most research – but what happens when your research participants don’t want to read a journal to learn about the findings? That’s when you get creative and involve participants in developing tools for communicating research outcomes.
The Centre for Hip Health and Mobility undertook a collaborative video development process to present key findings from their research into the question of what makes a good place to grow old. “I’d Rather Stay” is a documentary that explores growing older in one’s chosen neighbourhood, told from the perspective of five older adults living in Vancouver. The documentary has been screened over 80 times, including at three film festivals, and has sparked discussion at numerous forums.
The Active Aging BC project has also produced a series of video vignettes that capture the lived experiences of eight older adults across BC and delve into what it means to be active and engaged as you age.
Returning to the original question of what makes a good place to grow old, Joanie summarized the key findings of her collaborative research projects.
Destination: Seniors need to have places to go and be able to get there (like walk to the grocery store).
Social connections: Older adults need to foster new connections to prevent social isolation.
Micro-environmental structure: Features of the built environment that facilitate mobility and social connection are critical (like benches in the right places that allow older adults to sit and interact with others, and crosswalks that give older / disabled adults enough time to get across).
Programs & activities: Less than 14% of seniors meet the standards for physical activity. The best prevention programs focus on retaining mobility in older adults (low fitness has higher mortality than smoking, diabetes and obesity combined!).