The Unending Quest for Innovative Solutions in an Aging World

‘Our value of innovation is the never-ending desire to do things even better’

By Kristian Partington

The Schlegel Villages/RIA Innovation Summit held in Guelph June 24-25 challenged more than 140 participants from across both organizations to deeply examine what it means to innovate in the world of healthy aging.  

Two team members smiling for a photo at the conference
From across Schlegel Villages and the RIA, team members, residents
and family members focused on quality improvement through innovation.

“Creativity is exponential,” said Schlegel Villages director of business development Jennifer Hartwick as she invited participants to open their minds to new ideas at the beginning of the event. When one person has a creative idea it often inspires others to look at things in a new light, yet a creative idea alone is not enough, she said. For something to be truly innovative, the idea must become a reality through strategic implementation.

Over these two days, summit participants cycled through a circuit of 16 short seminars that shone a light upon recent examples of solid ideas becoming reality. These seminars highlighted either the process by which RIA researchers address some of the leading age-related challenges of today, or some of the inspiring team-member led initiatives and innovations that are enhancing the lives of residents in the villages.

Schlegel team members shared stories of success related to the optimization of psychotropic medication use and the elimination of restraints and alarms, for example, while RIA team members explained some of their work studying issues like the correlation between brain blood flow and falls and better nutrition through enhanced mealtimes that offer residents more choice. These are but four examples of the depth of content at the summit.

“I never expected something like this,” said Erin Meadows resident David Kent during a break on Day 1. “It’s impressive that Schlegel (Villages and the RIA) would once again show such leadership in this way, that they would have all kinds of different types of people from each neighbourhood together – it’s impressive.”

David, a former educator, said that the commitment of both organizations to address the needs of residents in terms of “the whole person” relies upon input from everyone connected to the villages, and he was thankful to be part of the process.

“As a resident, I’m overwhelmed by the team/neighbourhood concept that you have here,” he told the audience as participants shared their takeaways at day’s end. I feel much more confident in the help I’m going to get from all you folks.”

He said the concept of a running and effective focus group, which was presented by the RIA’s Susan Brown, might very well reshape the way that Residents’ Council at Erin Meadows operates. Shared ideas do spread it seems, and this is why the investment in the summit was made.

“Innovation is the never-ending desire to do things even better,” said Paul Brown, vice-president of operations with Schlegel Villages. “This is a core value but it’s also a core behaviour; we want have this mindset, this attitude, that we can always do better at what it is we’re trying to achieve.”