linkAges now in the Community!

Posted on Apr 19, 2013

Exactly one year after hosting our Developer Challenge, where we shared our vision for a system that would support successful aging and transform the way we partnered with the community, the David Druker Center for Innovation is proud to announce that this month we have launched the first component of the linkAges Successful Aging System – the linkAges BayArea TimeBank.

What did it take to get us here

We started with the belief that moving the needle on improving the quality of life for older adults and caregivers required a disruption of the traditional business model of fee-for-service sick care delivery and that a comprehensive care system needed to address social determinants of health external to today’s health care delivery systems.

“We created linkAges to address a very real problem,” said Dr. Paul Tang, VP and Chief Innovation and Technology Officer, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, who leads the Innovation Center. “Quality of life and social health are key determinants of health. The next-generation health system must reinvent itself as a community health partner, not just a sick-care delivery system. linkAges is PAMF’s iteration of that vital reinvention.”

The Innovation Center team spent the initial part of its effort conducting extensive ethnographic research with older adults and caregivers in the community. The goal was to develop a deep understanding of the needs, barriers and constraints that people encounter related to managing their personal health and wellness, from their perspective. We then leveraged what we had learnt to help us design an integrated system that would address the themes that we heard repeatedly. Older adults expressed that they were dealing with feeling isolated, disconnected from the community, lonely, not valued and were increasingly losing opportunities to pursue their interests and passions. Caregivers reflected on experiencing stress, guilt, isolation and coping with multiple demands.

The linkAges system was designed as a responsive community-based network that would address these themes and both enhance and support aging in place for older adults and their caregivers.

Once our conceptual framework for the linkAges system was in place we focused on identifying how we would pilot and deploy linkAges in the community. Once more, we took a comprehensive approach: we wanted to develop a program model that was sustainable and scalable; and would have the capability to support an entire community and its efforts to support aging in place. Therefore it was important to us that linkAges engaged a broader community and supported three key aspects: 1) Quality of life for individuals and family caregivers; 2) Organizational capacity for organizations working in diverse ways to support older adults and caregivers and 3) Policy and Advocacy efforts. We also wanted to ensure that linkAges was accessible to older adults with limited technology skills or limited or no access to technology, people who spoke diverse languages and people who were homebound.

Creating a network of partners

We identified Mountain View as a pilot community because of its diversity, close-knit communities, network of social sector organizations supporting older adults and caregivers, and strong city priorities to support aging in place. We then framed a partnership approach that would sustain linkAges through key supports: implementation partners, advocacy/policy partners and philanthropic partners. From August 2012 through now we reached out to the social sector, city, Chamber of Commerce, Senior Center, Senior Advisory Committee, faith-based groups, advocacy groups, neighborhood associations, public organizations and businesses – and have launched linkAges with 15 founding partners!

As Chair of the Mountain View Senior Advisory Committee, Pamela Conlon-Sandhu, RN, is one of the advocates for Mountain View’s role in this pilot program. “The linkAges program strives to support seniors in our community by utilizing creative new technology approaches. I am looking forward to utilizing this new program to help our senior community,” said Conlon-Sandhu.

Moving towards the future

Over the next years, our partnerships and participants will continue to grow: older adults, community members and caregivers participating as users of the linkAges system and the linkAgesTimeBank will be the pioneers of a community-based effort that we hope will be transformative in its impact to support aging in place.

We will continue to develop and deploy the other components of the linkAges system and reach out to leadership and content experts in the field of aging and innovation and will let our community and participants guide us so that we learn continually as we grow. We will evaluate rigorously and course-correct as needed to meet our goal of creating an integrated toolkit with the linkAges platform, evaluation findings and community deployment model that will be available for scalable deployment.

Our vision is to offer the larger community – older adults, individuals and families, public and social sector organizations, and corporations – a tool that they can adapt and use to advance their own efforts at building community and supporting older adults and caregivers.

“It takes a village to successfully nurture healthy aging in place. linkAges is designed as a deployable, replicable and scalable network. We anticipate that its impact in supporting aging in place will begin in Mountain View and will eventually expand to many more diverse communities,” said Dr. Tang.

It will take a community. We hope that you will join us.

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