For more than a century, innovation has been at the core of Baycrest’s efforts to respond to the changing needs of older adults. Baycrest has persistently sought new and better ways to provide care and empower older adults, and pave the way for the best possible aging journey, wherever they call home. Baycrest is listening to older adults and their families, and is responding to their desire to live safely and independently in the community for as long as possible, by creating solutions, building partnerships and collaborating with others on leading-edge technologies to support them in their homes – even as they face physical and cognitive changes.
AGING IN THE COMMUNITY WITH BAYCREST@HOME
The recently launched Baycrest@Home initiative is a prime example of an innovative solution that is helping older adults remain at home with appropriate supports. The model leverages virtual technologies to provide a holistic approach to care for older adults with declining cognitive health, as well as support for their care partners – usually a spouse or an adult child.
The process begins with a virtual visit with a clinical social worker who assesses the needs of the individual and their family. Families have access to education, clinical expertise, counselling and referrals, a home safety assessment and healthcare advice. Virtual social and recreational programs keep older adults with dementia, and their care partners, engaged, reduce social isolation, and contribute to their overall health and well-being. All Baycrest@Home services draw on the knowledge and skills of Baycrest experts in aging and brain health.
Baycrest@Home is also testing sensor technology for home safety and an online learning platform to educate and support family care partners.
When the pandemic hit, Baycrest@Home was able to extend its reach to members of Baycrest’s Adult Day Programs who were no longer able to come to the campus to participate in the programs and benefit from the support and social connections with other older adults living in the community.
Azaliya,* daughter of an Adult Day Program member, worried that her mother’s cognitive health would decline if she wasn’t able to attend in person. Instead, because of Baycrest@Home, she has seen some improvements. “She wakes up earlier than she used to and looks forward to doing something,” Azaliya explains. “It keeps her busy for a few hours a day. She listens to music. She does the exercise programs. I think it’s very innovative, especially now when she can’t have a lot of visitors. I think it’s great.”
SUPPORTING AGING AND BRAIN HEALTH INNOVATORS THROUGH CABHI
Baycrest also supports high-impact healthcare solutions to help older adults age well at home through the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI). CABHI is a unique collaboration of healthcare, science, industry, not-for-profit and government partners whose aim is to help improve the quality of life for the world’s aging population, allowing older adults to age safely in the setting of their choice while maintaining their cognitive, emotional and physical well-being. Through its funding programs, CABHI helps innovators develop, test and disseminate their aging and brain health solutions.
CABHI-supported innovations helping older adults age safely in the place of their choice include Careteam and MEMOTEXT’s Ring of Support system. Careteam is a care coordination and navigation platform designed to bring together interprofessional healthcare teams to collaborate on care plans for patients with complex care needs through secure communication. As a response to COVID-19, Careteam was able to provide personalized healthcare information and virtual care appointments for older adults who tested positive for the virus.
Leveraging smart devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa, the CABHI-supported company MEMOTEXT provides at-home health checks using automated phone calls. In the event of an emergency, MEMOTEXT devices are equipped to dispatch a nurse practitioner to the user’s place of residence. By providing healthcare on-demand during a pandemic, this innovation has been deployed to 18,000 homes to date.
EMPOWERING OLDER ADULTS TO OVERCOME THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Recognizing that technology is at the heart of many innovations that help older adults age in their setting of choice, Baycrest is supporting programs to help older adults bridge the digital divide through its Baycrest Innovation Office (BIO). BIO was created in 2019 to identify best practices and technologies at Baycrest and around the globe and support their development, implementation and potential commercialization.
One example is Technology Enablement for older Adults (TEA), an eight-week program that empowers older adults to take charge of their digital literacy journey. When the pilot program wrapped up in March 2021, participants said they were thrilled with the new, digital world that had opened up for them. One participant said: “You can virtually explore a museum, see the doctor and get groceries. You can do anything! It’s very exciting.”
INVOLVING OLDER ADULTS IN THE SOLUTIONS
“Aging at home isn’t what it used to be even 10 years ago,” says Dr. Allison Sekuler, Baycrest’s Vice-President of Research and Managing Director of CABHI. “Advances in technology have transformed aging, and innovators are working closely with older adults, listening to their hopes and desires to create solutions that enable people to live their lives to the fullest. The mission is to empower older adults and not only to feel safe and be healthy, but to get excited about – and take a real role in developing – the future of age-friendly communities.”
Through innovation, collaboration and compassion, Baycrest is committed to finding solutions to support older adults throughout the aging journey so they can enjoy a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment.
* Azaliya – name changed for privacy reasons