The role of senior centres in promoting the health and wellbeing of older adults: Co-developing a research agenda with Vancouver senior centres

As our population ages and generational shifts occur, the health and social needs of older British Columbians are changing. Senior centres play an important role in providing health promotion, social services, and recreational activities that enhance the health and wellbeing of community-dwelling older adults. Despite the important roles senior centres can play in the lives of older adults, to date there has been limited research on senior centres and the impacts of their programs and services on older adults. The purpose of this project is to host four workshops for stakeholders from Vancouver senior centres (staff, board members, and senior centre members) to co-develop an agenda for future research. The workshops will provide an opportunity to learn more about stakeholders’ perspectives about the current challenges, opportunities, emerging trends, and roles for senior centres in supporting the health and wellbeing of older adults. Based on the workshops, a workshop report will be created as a well as a research agenda for future research on senior centres.

Mental health in later life: A stakeholder-informed approach to health and technology interventions for older adults

Feeling down or worried happens to everyone, but for some people these feelings are very strong, long-lasting, and can be damaging to them and their families. Mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, may include feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, or even suicide. Worldwide, mental illness affects one in five people aged 60+.

However, problems faced by older adults impacting their mental health are often overlooked, such as loneliness, loss of a spouse, or ill-health. We need to change the way we treat mental health, with services that consider older adults' specific needs and situations.

To this end, we will bring together an advisory board of older adults to help inform the project, providing insights into what contributes to their mental health and what sorts of technologies promote better mental health. Using these insights we will identify factors that contribute to older adults’ poor mental health. 

Additionally, we will work with older adults to test technology-driven interventions, for example mobile apps, that best suit the needs of older adults in improving their mental health.

A telehealth intervention to promote healthy lifestyles after stroke: The Stroke COACH

Stroke is often associated with low levels of physical activity and poor nutrition habits and with related conditions such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Within five years of the initial stroke, 30 percent of stroke survivors will suffer a recurrent stroke.

We developed the telehealth Stroke COACH programme, a lifestyle modification intervention comprised of a self-management manual for stroke survivors, a self-monitoring kit (including a blood pressure monitor, pedometer, and health report card), and telephone-coaching sessions by trained ‘lifestyle coaches’. In this six month program, seven sessions of 30-60 minutes are delivered by the coaches who use motivational interviewing techniques to facilitate active patient engagement and enhance chronic disease self-management skills of problem solving, decision making, action planning, and resource utilization.

One hundred twenty-five community-dwelling individuals who have had a stroke of mild to moderate severity within the last twelve months will be enrolled in this single-blind randomized controlled trial. They will be randomly assigned to either: 1) Stroke COACH with a lifestyle coach, or 2) control group (memory training program with a memory coach).

We predict that the Stroke COACH will improve a global measure of lifestyle behaviour in community-dwelling stroke survivors compared to the control group. This will be measured at zero, six, and 12 months using the Lifestyle Profile II, a global lifestyle behaviour measure that considers physical activity, stress management, nutrition, health advocacy, interpersonal support, and spirituality.

We also predict improvement in physical activity and cardiovascular health outcomes, which we will measure using the StepWatch Activity Monitor and bloodwork results.

If testing is successful, the low-cost and remote delivery of the Stroke COACH would enable a large number of Canadians in both urban and rural regions to improve health behaviours of people living with stroke, potentially reducing the risk of subsequent stroke.