Article by Jonna Semple-Kloke, Communications Officer, Providence Care

Once a month, health-care professionals and community members invested in the health and wellness of our aging population, come together to plan and consider how to support, advocate for, and coordinate the regional programs and services designed to help aging adults thrive at home. They are the Aging Well at Home working group, a subgroup or branch of the Frontenac Lennox and Addington Ontario Health Team (FLA OHT).

The goal of the Aging Well at Home working group is to support aging adults to live independently, maintain health and wellness and receive connected preventative, community-based care. This allows the OHT to achieve its goal of improving quality of care, and reducing the per capita cost of health care. The FLA OHT’s Aging Well at Home working group includes members of the community, municipalities, and multiple organizations like the Canadian Frailty Network (CFN). Kyle Plumb is the project manager at CFN and sits on the Aging Well at Home working group. He says one of the biggest contributions his organization brings to the table is an inventory list, or database, of community-based supports and services.

“Access is difficult,” says Kyle. “CFN and the FLA OHT are working to enhance accessibility to community-based, preventative, and behavioral supports for aging adults. The outcome of enhanced accessibility for community-based supports, such as the AVOID Frailty program, means reduced stress on medical and clinical-based supports.”

The AVOID Frailty program is newly launched and is in its developmental stage here in the KFL&A area. Older adults, 60 and above, can take an online self-assessment about their overall health and wellness and get a detailed report of what resources are best suited for them to stay healthy, live independently, and avoid frailty. After their self-assessment, they are also given access to the interactive and community-based database that outlines all the community resources, services and programs available in KFL&A for aging adults. AVOID is an acronym and a framework for healthy living. AVOID stands for activity, vaccination, optimizing medication, social interaction, and diet. These four categories are evidence-based components known to prevent the onset of frailty.

“Frailty is a medical condition of reduced function. It means enhanced vulnerability to minor, medical issues like a fall, a cut or catching the flu. The risk of frailty increases with age but is not a part of regular aging and that is where our group’s expertise comes in to help,” explains Kyle. “A medical approach can’t be totally separate from a community-based approach to wellness,” adds Kyle. “Both need to work together in tandem. What we’d like to see is a full integration with all health teams. Where, if CFN can find a risk to an individual through our assessments we can point them to medical professionals and develop treatment plans together.”

While CFN working in tandem with primary health providers is still a goal, a new initiative within the AVOID Frailty program also sees in-person assessments for individuals. The optional, in-person assessments take place with Providence Care geriatrician, Dr. John Puxty. “This approach allows us to validate our self-responded survey and it also provides those in our community with further evaluation and further recommendations from a geriatrician. It’s a great option for those individuals who may not have a family doctor.”

The working group also works to identify other opportunities for older adults to gain more information, resources and supports to maintain health, wellness and independence. For example, a Seniors Expo hosted by the Loyalist Family Health Team took place on June 1 at the WJ Henderson Recreation Centre located at 322 Amherst Drive in Amherstview.

“Knowing where to turn for supports that not only encourage, but also inspires, aging adults to live a healthy lifestyle is how we support people to age well at home,” says Helen Cooper, a member of the Aging Well at Home working group. Helen is also president of Oasis, a not-for-profit organization in Kingston offering a wide range of programming to older adults living in an apartment building in Kingston’s mid-town.

“I have seen the positive impact of older adults engaging together in activities that encourage exercise and healthy eating. Above all else, Oasis provides opportunities for residents to socialize, thus avoiding isolation and loneliness that can be extremely detrimental to health, both physically and mentally. No matter our age we all need a sense of purpose and reason to look forward to each new day.”

 Members of the Aging Well at Home working group include: Indigenous community members, Loyalist Family Health Team, health care professionals like administration and Medical Doctors from Providence Care and Lennox & Addington County General Hospital. Members also represent the City of Kingston, Loyalist Township, Lennox & Addington Community Paramedicine, Rural Frontenac Community Services, Alzheimer's Society, KFL&A Public Health, Home and Community Care, Kaymar, Community Rehabilitation, Queen’s University Health Sciences, St Elizabeth’s Research Institute and the Canadian Frailty Network.