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Research That Makes A Difference

Older adults value their autonomy and independence as key features of healthy aging. Older adults know best what they need to increase their independence, functioning, wellbeing and quality of life. Good research design involves meaningful engagement of older adults, progressive expert partnerships and a mix methods approach that takes advange of multiple ways to explore, build insight into and interpret a complex intervention.

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Meaningful Engagement
of Older Adults

Co-creation of knowledge through iterative and purposeful collaboration with older adults and continuing care staff so that they drive decision-making processes

Progressive Partnerships

Broad content expertise (rehabilitation engineering, informatics, data analytics, continuing care, person-centred care, change management, qualitative research) that informs study design, outcome measures, and processes

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Elder woman and her caretaker

“This traditionally underfunded field has commonly relied on staff members to assist continuing care clients in basic leisure activities. Giving clients the independence to control their environment including lights, beds and doors will enhance their quality of life while freeing up formal caregivers time to address critical care needs. We believe SMART technology can improve health and psychosocial outcomes for clients across institutional and home care settings.”

Kim Parker, Rehabilitation Engineer, Nova Scotia Health Authority & Clinical Researcher, Dalhousie University

SMART Technologies and Healthy Aging

Emerging research suggests older adults with visual and motor disabilities are using SMART technologies to support their independence and wellbeing.

However, very little research demonstrates they have a measurable impact on health and quality of life outcomes and/or offers an explanation as to why or how this is a key barrier to adoption and scalability.

Very little research exists on the views/experiences of older adults living with these technologies in real-life settings, and over time.

 Reducing Barriers to Uptake

Despite the potential benefits of smart technologies, non-adoption, abandonment, and underutilization of new technologies by older adults and organizations is very common. 

Research in this area suggests there can be many reasons as to why this happens, including that older adults and caregivers don’t perceive the features or capabilities of the tech as being useful, it can’t be customized to their needs, and/or there is a conflict between the values of this tech for different users – older adults, caregivers, organizations.

Most of what we know about support uptake and use is based on research with older adults living independently, and we don’t yet know what the barriers/facilitators are in continuing care settings or how these could be addressed to ensure sustainability and scalability.

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The SMARTech Project

In our project, we are exploring the feasibility, usability, sustainability, and scalability of SMART technologies in Continuing Care to enhance the independence, functioning, wellbeing, and quality of life of older adults with complex conditions who receive Continuing Care services.

 

We are using our industry partner, Novalte's emitto™ SMART hub and customized proprietary devices in conjunction with off-the-shelf Google Nest Hub Max devices to provide a responsive voice-activated SMART technology solution for Northwood Continuing Care clients in Halifax (e.g. residents of long-term care home or receiving home care services).

 

Using the ACT Assessment, we are using a person centered approach to address residents’ specified goals and at the long-term care site. We are providing older adults with a specialized rehabilitation service to support their use of this solution to meet their goals.

 

To enable this solution to be widely deployed across the Continuing Care sector, we are partnering with Think Research who will support scalability by developing a decision tool that will integrate the use of technology into client care plans.

 

Using multiple methods of data collection, we will evaluate the longitudinal impact of this solution on older adults, caregivers, and care staff, and identify the factors that influence its implementation and uptake.

SMARTech Objectives

Living More with SMART Technology (LivMoreSMARTech) supports technology development and use that is transdisciplinary and ‘fit for purpose’ for improving the independence, functioning, wellbeing and quality of life of older adults in Continuing Care:

  • To understand the lived experience, needs and desires for independence, autonomy and well-being among older adults with complex conditions in Continuing Care.

  • To determine the factors that influence implementation and update of a SMART technology solution, and its impacts on older adults, care staff and unpaid caregivers in Continuing Care.

  • To understand how best to incorporate sustainable, person-centred technology solutions into Continuing Care settings that result in scalable outcomes including adoption into organizational policies, procedures, programs and care planning.

SMARTech word cloud depicting terms important to the project, including autonomy & person-centered.
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135 Participants 

Long Term Care:

  • 50 Older Adult Residents

  • 20 Northwood Staff (Nurses, Rec, Nutritionists, Housekeeping) 

  • 15 Northwood Administrative Staff

Home Care:

  • 25 Older Adult Clients

  • 25 Unpaid Caregivers

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Methods

This is a demonstration and evaluation of a complex intervention in a real-life setting.

  • We evaluate the impact of the intervention and implementation at the same time.

  • The intervention has multiple interacting components (e.g. SMART technology, supports and integrated care systems). All elements may trigger new behaviours by participants and caregivers. We expect a variety of outcomes.

  • The intervention is a result of iterative cycles developed over time (e.g. customization of technology, changes in practices and policies). There is insufficient research to offer a logic model or theory of change.
     

We take a pragmatic evaluation approach, using multiple sources of data (quantitative and qualitative) collected at 3 time points (baseline before installation, and at 6 months and 12 months post-installation)

  • This study design, exploratory in nature of the research, supports the need for a deep and comprehensive understanding of participant concerns, priorities and impact.

  • We take a staggered approach to implementation, alternating 3 months intervals between long-term care and homecare settings. 

Timeline of the SMARTech project from Baseline to 12 month follow up.
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