EMBOLDEN Team Launches its First Co-Design Event in Hamilton

Published: ​February 11, 2020 

Being social and active can help maintain quality of life​ in those aged 55 years and older. Many older adults, however, experience mobility barriers that keep them from accessing the community programs designed to support their social participation and, ultimately, their health and wellness.

EMBOLDEN, a Labarge-funded research initiative, wants to help older adults overcome those barriers through improved nutrition, physical activity and social connections in key Hamilton neighbourhoods. The project uses co-design principles to understand participants’ needs and goals, and leverages community partnerships to ensure the intervention reaches and fits the population. Older adults and community service providers, therefore, are critical partners in this work.

On December 9, 2019, the EMBOLDEN team held their Strategic Guiding Council launch event, effectively initiating the co-design portion of their research. Building on existing best practices and local evidence, researchers, together with local older adults and community service providers, began discussions around developing an innovative community-based program with the goal of promoting health, mobility, inclusion, and equity among the target group.

Members of the research team, which included Rebecca GanannRuta ValaitisMaureen Markle-Reid, and Sarah Neil-Sztramko from McMaster’s School of Nursing, Elizabeth Alvarez from the Department of Health Research Methodology, Evidence and Impact, and Stuart Phillips from the Department of Kinesiology, were joined by stakeholders and community members, including representatives from the City of Hamilton, Hamilton Council on Aging, United Way, St. Matthew’s House, Hamilton Public Health and others.

The event explored participants’ interests, goals, and expectations and allowed the project leads to share progress to date, including an environmental scan detailing the services and characteristics of the four Hamilton neighbourhood clusters (Dundurn/Strathcona, Durand/Corktown/Stinson, Burkholme/Macassa, Corman/Kentley/Riverdale West) that will serve as the study’s intervention sites.

A key outcome of this event was to partner with and learn from the group’s rich expertise living and working in Hamilton, start to gather participants’ views on the priority features to include in the EMBOLDEN study, the barriers to consider, and the voices that should be invited to contribute.

“The event marked the official start of ongoing partnerships over the next three years to collaboratively design and test novel approaches to improving the lives of aging Hamiltonians,” said Ganann. “It was a highly engaged room with a strong commitment to inclusive, supportive environments for older adults.”