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Healthy Canadians Grant Spotlight: Ocean View Continuing Care

The Healthy Canadians Grants program is designed to provide support for community-run initiatives that will improve the quality of life of patients and vulnerable populations living in communities across Canada, and will have a positive impact on the community as a whole. The program is a joint collaboration between the CMA and the CMA Foundation and each year up to 14 Healthy Canadians Grants will be awarded – one $10,000 grant to each province or territory, and an additional $20,000 grant to the home province of the CMA president.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia rob those affected of their most precious possession — their memories. A new project funded in part by a Healthy Canadians Grant aims to improve memory recall in seniors living with these conditions by allowing them to virtually visit familiar places from their past, and it is hoped that the project will positively affect their state of health and well-being.

The BikeAround project will use Google Street View, along with a stationary bike,to allow residents of the Ocean View Continuing Care Centre near Halifax, Nova Scotia, to ride through familiar streets and take in recognizable sights in towns and cities around the world.  The BikeAround technology was developed in Stockholm, Sweden, by a group of biomechanical engineers looking to improve the experience of seniors in nursing care homes through memory management. Researchers found the experience had a profound impact on the quality of life of the program’s participants, reducing participants’ aggressive tendencies and feelings of agitation, improving their language abilities and memory recall and lessening their feelings of social isolation. It also provides much-needed physical activity. Seniors participating in the program can ride through neighbourhoods from their childhood, revisit holiday destinations and tour other places that were important places in their lives,all from their current residence.

Ocean View has recruited local high school students to volunteer their time and assist residents using the technology. Students have the opportunity to converse with the seniors, help them recall stories and memories from their past and provide companionship.

Dr. Claire Nowlan is one of several doctors who care for the residents of Ocean View.  In her letter of support for the Healthy Canadians Grant application, she stated the program will “combat the deleterious effects of dementia, social isolation and physical inactivity in our residents.” The program will also provide physicians with anon-pharmaceutical intervention to treat patients for symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The $10,000 Healthy Canadians Grant will be used to subsidize the purchase of the BikeAround technology. The program is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada and could inspire other communities to start similar programs. The doctors and staff of Ocean View firmly believe the implementation of this program will benefit the physical, emotional and cognitive health of the seniors living there and will have a positive impact on the community as a whole.