Video seminars a healthy source of information for seniors during COVID-19 pandemic

U of A researcher and senior care provider partner to promote healthy aging in elderly communities.

Laura Vega - 7 May 2020

Elderly communities are learning more about their health and how to manage their daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a partnership between a senior living and care provider and the University of Alberta.

Optima Living Communities has teamed up with Dr. Adrian Wagg, Director of the U of A Division of Geriatric Medicine, to develop a series of informative seminars that both cover common topics related to healthy aging and address questions from seniors and their caretakers.

"Optima wanted to offer to the community a source of information that could be trusted, reliable and rooted in evidence-based research," said Farid Damji, co-founder and principal at Optima Living Communities. "Upon meeting with Dr. Wagg, it was clear our work and that of the University of Alberta was deeply aligned and the partnership was built."

The collaboration initially involved in-person engagement sessions delivered by Dr. Wagg in Sherwood Park, Alberta. With the challenges of physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the project quickly pivoted into an accessible video and webinar series.

"Over the last couple of months, we've been recording fixed sessions on some aspects of healthy aging like brain health and bladder control, and also to answer questions about current health concerns with older people," said Adrian Wagg, director of the U of A Division of Geriatric Medicine.

"As you might expect, this has largely concentrated on the coronavirus in the last couple of sessions, trying to dispel some myths and misinformation about it."

In the videos related to COVID-19, Wagg provides tips on how to stay socially connected, what precautions seniors should take and how to continue to receive regular medical care during this time, among other topics.

According to Farid Damji, the co-founder and principal at Optima Living Communities, the videos have had a very positive response from the community so far.

"The feedback has been amazing. Our audience found Dr. Wagg very approachable, and easy to follow and understand," said Damji. "Seniors in the community and their families are asking us to do more."

Optima Living Communities is a care provider with nine facilities in both Alberta and British Columbia with a tenth slated to open in Sherwood Park in early 2021. Damji said the strong reputation of the U of A's Department of Geriatrics for its work in brain health and healthy aging made it ideal to join forces for this community education initiative.

For Wagg, who holds the Alberta Health Services Chair in Healthy Aging, the project is a very promising way to improve elderly people's well-being and expand research opportunities.

"We do a lot of community-based participatory research, and have a long history of patient engagement in designing and guiding our research," he explained.

"This series of interactive talks is aimed at improving the health literacy of seniors. Residents at Optima Living Communities might like to take part in some of our studies, but we are committed to interactive health education and that will improve self-management of any medical conditions that they might have."

The videos are publicly available to seniors and families everywhere who want to learn more. The partnership will continue over the next three years, with both parties keen to provide more tools to improve elderly care and health.

"It's an innovative, creative partnership and it's come together as a meeting of minds. It's meeting everyone's needs," said Wagg. "I would encourage other researchers to explore similar avenues."