Report: ASHRA conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia

by Louis on June 24, 2009

I am so glad I was honored with an invitation to speak at the Atlantic Seniors Housing Research Alliance conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada last month. This conference was the culmination of a five years study of the situation and conditions of senior hosuing and services in this part of Canada. Don Shiner, a marketing professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax chaired the alliance study, applying businesslike techniques to retrieving and organzing information.

The conference was a mix of academics, senior network folks, health care professionals and government officials, builders/developers and housing officials as well as citizen advocates. The Atlantic provinces – Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and New Foundland are largely rural, have high percentage senior populations and feel like closely knit communities. The Canadian health care system is not so private as ours but clearly not so centralized as some European or the Japanese model.

Four speakers set the stage the first day.
1. Andrew McIntosh represents Tunstall, a UK company providing alert and monitoring systems in the UK planning to expand to North American markets. Talking with Andrew at breakfast was worth the trip as we discussed how the differences in private/government pay impacts innovation.

Andy’s presentation was eye opening. The UK is full bore into telecare, developing clear data about hospital cost savings. Their monitoring systems are robust and community based. The rapid investment in cost saving Aging in Place technologies reflects public responsibility for health expenses. Just one of the terms these folks use, ‘health and social care partnerships’, gives a hint to the difference in approach between the UK system and that here in the States.

2. The second speaker, Victor Regnier, is professor of gerontology and architecture at the University of Southern California. Victor has been the visionary behind many design and program innovations at Sunrise Senior Living and many other housing providers. He has written many books. Victor has visited lots of Northern European communities to study innovations and attitudes about seniors, housing and health care. His presentation showed a wide range of conceptual variations – opening our minds well beyond the familiar.

3. I spoke about technology for Aging in Place. I reviewed process and some examples of home mods (failures, too!) and assistive tech including ceiling lifts. I skipped alerts and telehealth (after Andrew’s excellent intro). I spoke briefly about how smart house techniques can increase choices. My focus was the Comprehensive, Integrated and DYNAMIC Monitoring and Management SYSTEM I dream about. I described the air traffic control-like community based monitoring center that will dispatch resources to make best use of the right service/provider/technology- saving money and preserving dignity.

4. Jen Boger who does research at University of Toronto and Toronto Rehab fascinated us with their approach to automated assists for folks Aging in Place. They focus on using intelligent technologies to solve commonplace and significant problems. Jen’s organization is a partner of the University of Buffalo School of Architecture based IDEA Center, a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on whose advisory board I serve.

The next day and a half continued with presentations, breakouts and the design competition award. One breakout I attended captured the special nature of the whole. People got excited speaking about volunteer efforts, community efforts, best practices …and how they can go to the next level. These people want to be responsible. The Canadian approach to private action and government partnership makes good ideas seem possible.

The differences we see on the continuum of social and health responsibility from the UK, in Canada and here gives real insight to some of the problems we have implementing new ideas. We have some lessons to learn. I am really glad I had the chance to go to this great conference and immerse myself to kick start my education.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: