“Understanding how to get Older Adults and People Living with Dementia Outside: Karl Kinanen Undergraduate Research Scholarship”
A blog by Karl Kinanen Undergraduate Research Scholarship Recipient - Dylan Lu (2022-23)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was found that more older adults and people living with dementia went outside even less than usual. However, those that go outside can receive multiple forms of benefits. The “outdoor based support and care for older adults living with dementia” project has been a venture to find better opportunities for older adults living with dementia and their care partners living in the community to get outside. I am grateful to be the recipient of the 2022-2023 Karl Kinanen Undergraduate Student Research Scholarship. It has opened the door to understanding and learning about research, and allowed me to support the project led by Dr. Anthea Innes as a research assistant. The outdoor based support and care for older adults living with dementia project has made significant progress since beginning in January of 2023. A comprehensive and publishable scoping review of the literature on the current academic understandings of outdoor based support and care for people living with dementia has been developed within this time frame. Throughout the process of creating a scoping review of the literature, much learning was done as it was the first time that the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRIMSA) literature review template was used by some of the research team members. The process was laid out in lay terms and although there were some issues in terms of staying on time due to unfamiliarity of the template, the complete process was seamless. Identifying themes, sifting through articles, and communicating with other team members about the articles was an essential learning point for the process. Through hands-on experience, a plethora of knowledge was garnered. Data collection for the project was then completed, comprising multiple focus groups and interviews conducted with older adults, people living with dementia, care partners as well as staff from local outdoor based organizations. Two walking focus groups were conducted in a local garden that granted the research team free passes, where older adults, people living with dementia, and their care partners were given the opportunity to interact and immerse themselves within the gardens while having informal discussions with the research team. Participants were able to express their thoughts and emotions while being physically active as they walked through the gardens. Participants had concerns about different aspects of visiting outdoor spaces, such as accessibility, the unpredictability of the weather, safe walking paths, and through this process, their hopes of acknowledging and alleviating these problems to encourage future participation in these gardens. This hands-on experience with conversing and walking with participants was a vital part of this project for the research team as it allowed for the team to understand first hand the experiences and struggles of individuals who are living with dementia as they strive to continue to go outside. Data analysis is ongoing and the findings have been presented at the British Society of Gerontology in July 2023, with further presentations accepted for the Alzheimer Europe Conference in Helsinki and the Canadian Association of Gerontology Conference in Toronto, both in October 2023, and the Rural Dementia Summit in Saskatoon in November 2023.
With support from the Karl Kinanen Student Research Scholarship, I had the opportunity to grow and attain research skills alongside a full research team that has years of experience conducting research and writing academic papers. I not only closely observed the development of the study, but more importantly, participated within the full research process from the start. I learned about the ethics processes, data collection, and all of the behind the scenes work involved with conducting important research that can greatly impact our communities and future generations. Through these processes, I have grown significantly as a moral and upright researcher, learning to pay close attention to the details of the first hand experiences of the participants and viewing the findings with a holistic standpoint.
I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to Karl Kinanen, Ms. Beatrice Kemp, Dr. Anju Joshi, and the Gilbrea Centre for Studies on Aging for establishing this student research award. I would also like to thank my research team of Professor Anthea Innes, Professor Vanina Dal-Bello Haas, Professor Ingrid Waldron, Professor Meridith Griffin, Ms. Equity Burke, and Ms. Mason McLeod for working through all my growing pains as a beginner researcher.Blog Posts