I’ve always admired the compassion and resourcefulness of frontline healthcare workers. They truly are the backbone of our healthcare system and play a critical role in caring for our most vulnerable communities, especially older adults and those living with dementia. That’s why I believe frontline healthcare workers are uniquely equipped to solve the challenges facing our aging population.
As the Executive Director, Health Innovations at the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), my team and I have helped many frontline staff develop aging and brain health solutions through CABHI’s Spark Program.
The Spark Program was designed to help frontline healthcare workers solve real-world critical care challenges facing older adults and caregivers. Last year, we expanded the program and launched Spark-ON.
Through Spark-ON, CABHI invites frontline care workers, clinical managers, and clinical researchers to submit an innovative, COVID-19-related solution aimed at improving the lives of older adults – the group most impacted by the pandemic – persons with dementia, and their care partners.
Earlier this year, we also launched the Spark-CU Program to help Ontario students, Canada’s future innovators, grow promising ideas into viable aging and brain health solutions that can be launched and scaled into businesses. As part of the program, students receive ongoing mentorship, skill-building tools, and network connections to accelerate the translation of their ideas into the real world.
We recently invested close to $1 million through Spark-ON and Spark-CU in support of 24 aging and brain health innovations, projects that range from a virtual dance program to an intergenerational learning and digital literacy workshop for older adults. One example that comes to mind is the Wet your Whistle with Water program, an intervention co-designed by staff, residents, and implementation specialists to promote water intake in older adults living in residential care. While unique, each project in our Spark-ON and Spark-CU program share a common goal: improving the quality of life for older adults, people living with dementia, and their caregivers during the pandemic and beyond.
Frontline healthcare workers, like RPNs, are critical to the development of a strong and resilient healthcare ecosystem, one that can pivot in the face of uncertainty and change. By supporting their ingenuity, we can ensure a brighter, healthier future of aging for us all.
For information on future calls for proposal visit www.cabhi.com.
Bianca Stern is Executive Director, Health Innovations at the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI).
Her career spans over 38 years in healthcare within private and public sectors, including community, post-acute, and long-term care. She has also been involved in curriculum design, research, teaching, and student mentorship at college and university levels.
Bianca has built on her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and master’s degree in rehabilitation science, creatively intersecting the art and science of healthcare with innovation, technology, and industry. Bianca is a thought leader in the area of innovation, blending design thinking and arts-based tools with an inclusive, participatory user focus, capitalizing on emerging technologies and theoretical knowledge to support the spread and adoption of innovative solutions for the journey of aging.
Bianca currently oversees the innovation team at CABHI, including the Seniors Advisory Panel; Innovation Office; and Leap, CABHI’s new, virtual end-user community. She is also actively involved in helping foster a culture of innovation and knowledge mobilization across the CABHI network partner sites. For more information, visit: www.cabhi.com/