The Future on Display in the Innovator’s Den

Innovation Summit event highlights six exciting initiatives

By Kristian Partington

The Schlegel Villages/RIA Innovation Summit held in Brampton in mid-June was an opportunity to showcase some of the finest initiatives that are making life better for residents and team members.

Two major keynote addresses dominated both days while several different breakout sessions allowed team members, researchers and residents to share their insights on particular challenges and solutions. All were well received by some 200 attendees, but the Innovator’s Den on the afternoon of Day 1 stood out as both a fun and informative means of sharing new concepts and innovations.

Modelled after the popular CBC television series Dragon’s Den, in which a panel of five successful business people evaluate business ideas and inventions proposed by the public, the Schlegel Innovator’s Den brought three team member-led ideas before a panel of three ‘Dragons’, along with three outside innovations that could be used in the villages. The audience was then asked to vote on the innovations that most inspired them.

“We wanted a fun and novel way to share with all of the attendees great innovations that are happening both inside and outside the Villages that have the potential to improve quality of life for our residents,” says Schlegel Villages innovation integration lead Lora Bruyn-Martin, one of the summit’s key organizers.

Hilary Balaban from University Gates explained how the village’s partnership with Conestoga College helped create the successful adopt-a-student program, which pairs residents with practical nursing students in a mentorship-style relationship.

Kim Cusimano from the Village of Arbour trails spoke about supporting residents “to act as convenors, leaders and, really of essence, the community connectors.” At Arbour Trails, for example, residents’ council is a leader in bringing outside speakers into the village and partnering with neighbours to raise funds for various causes. The positive impact is felt both inside and outside the village.  

Team members Yvonne Bialek and Emily Swirgon from Glendale Crossing and the Village at St. Clair respectively, raved about their use of a new cleaning and disinfecting product called Nocospray, which has significantly helped defend against the spread of infection while freeing up time for team members to spend with residents.

From outside the villages, Winterlight Labs spoke about the use of voice recognition technology to monitor cognitive health while the founder of Marlena Books spoke about meaningful books to help inspire those living with cognitive impairment. The audience also heard about the development of a new means of monitoring vascular health through the use of natural light – a cutting edge, non-invasive science that can help people mitigate risks due to rising and falling blood pressure, for example, and detect subtle changes in vital signs that could be a prelude to catastrophic events such as heart attacks or strokes.

Schlegel Research Chair Dr. Heather Keller, Conestoga College’s Marlene Raasok, dean of the school of health and life sciences and community services, and Ron Smith, a former magazine publisher who now lives at the Village of Humber Heights, acted as the panel of ‘dragons,’ firing questions at each presenter. In the end, the audience chose their winners.

All presentations captured the interest of the audience and the interactive nature of the event engaged everyone. People would later describe the session in post-summit evaluations as “fantastic,” “outstanding” and “awesome,” and though Marlena Books and the Nocospray garnered the most votes, all initiatives showed what is possible in the future of long-term care and retirement living.