projects building quality of life: RIADance packs a stimulating, beneficial
A number of projects undertaken at the Schlegel-University
of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) aim to enhance quality
of life, life purpose, choice and flexibility in the lives of long-term
Looking at everything from the benefits of dance
to boosting protein consumption, the work addresses developing themes
in the long-term care sector, says Josie d’Avernas, associate
director of RIA which is a partnership between the University of
Waterloo, Conestoga College and Schlegel Seniors Villages.
One of the themes is increasing demand for more
choice and services from baby boomers who are approaching the age
when they will need long-term care.
“We need to dream up and test new programs
and new models ahead of the curve, so that the system has a bit
of time to integrate new discoveries in a timely way and keep up
with the anticipated pressures on the system and the changing expectations
of residents,” d’Avernas says.
Among the projects is one held in conjunction
with Sheridan College that looked at the role of dance in improving
quality of life.
“There is some evidence emerging that you
can enhance not just physical health but also brain health if you’re
doing a combination of physical exercise, cognitive challenge and
socialization, and the one activity that packages all of those three
things together is dance,” d’Avernas explains.
Met by a great turnout of retirement residents
who really enjoyed it, the project has led to a larger scale research
proposal that is now under review, d’Avernas says, adding
it will likely involve long-term care residents as well.
Another project with Dr. Heather Keller of the
University of Guelph is looking at making the most of mealtime to
improve appetite and nutrition.
“It’s not just what seniors eat but
their socialization at mealtime that enhances their health and can
have a big impact on their appetite,” d’Avernas says,
adding a mealtime environment that is conducive to happy socialization
may be a key.
Another area of research is also related to nutrition
and enhancing seniors’ protein consumption. The RIA is collaborating
with the University of Guelph to develop a bread using soy protein.
“Seniors tend not to get enough protein,
which is critically important for wound healing and maintaining
body mass,” d’Avernas says, adding reduced body mass
is common with aging and meat, a main protein source, is generally
harder to digest as people get older.
Researchers are eyeing soy because it is a good
source of protein that’s easier to digest. If a palatable
soy bread can be developed , it could boost protein consumption,
Lastly, RIA is looking at brain health and emerging
evidence that exercise, cognitive stimulation and social interaction
can slow the progression of memory loss.
Along with dance, the Nintendo Wii video game
system —used now in some long-term care homes — could
be a useful tool for testing research questions because certain
games are conducive to providing physical, mental and social stimulus,
These research areas, as well as others that relate
to improving care for complex health needs,give reason to hope for
new and beneficial innovations for long-term care.
“I think we have huge challenges ahead of
us but certainly there are also bright spots and I think research
and innovation is a bright spot. There’s some real promise
in new ways of working and new interventions that will help people
as they age,” d’Avernas says.
To learn more about the RIA and its research themes,
research leading to innovations for future care
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