Shared journeys in mental health: Building community partnerships for mental health support in older adults

Our mission is simple: We want to make mental health research better by involving the community more actively. When communities participate, research improves, stigma reduces, and more people benefit from the findings.

Here’s our plan for the year:

1. Reconnect: We’ll start by chatting with our Research Advisory Panel, which consists of a group of older adults in the community, to understand their experiences and needs post-pandemic.

2. Reach Out: We’ll spread the word about our project in community centres, via newsletters, and online platforms, inviting everyone interested to join us.

3. Learn Together: Through workshops, we’ll work with our partners and the Panel to brainstorm research questions and designs.

4. Collect Insights: We’ll host focus groups, interviews, and send out surveys to gather a wide range of perspectives on mental health research.

5. Empower: We’ll host training sessions on research methods to equip our partners with the tools they need to actively participate in the research and use the findings in their communities.

Our approach is rooted in respect, reciprocity, and co-learning. By involving the community at every step, we aim to make our research more meaningful and impactful.

Mental health and aging: Development and implementation of an online mental health peer-support platform for older adults

Imagine you are an older adult who sometimes feels down or anxious, and you would like someone to talk to who understands what you are going through. However, you may not have many people in your life who can relate to your experiences, or you may not feel comfortable discussing your mental health with them.
That’s where our online platform comes in. This project will create a platform where older adults can connect with other older adults who are going through similar challenges. Providing a safe and supportive space where you can talk about your mental health, the platform will connect older adults who have lived experience of mental health challenges and who may better understand what you’re going through. Using this platform, you will be able to communicate with them in a variety of ways, such as through private messaging or in virtual support groups.
Overall, the goal of the project is to provide a convenient and accessible way for older adults to access mental health support, which can be particularly important for those who may have limited mobility or who live in rural areas where mental health services are not readily available.

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.

Team members: Anthony Kupferschmidt (West End Seniors’ Network); Leslie Remund (411 Seniors Centre Society); Douglas Dunn (South Granville Seniors Centre); Laura Kadowaki (Simon Fraser University)

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.