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Poster Abstracts

Developing and Evaluating Virtual Programs for Persons with Dementia During the Pandemic and Beyond


Winnie Sun ,

Ontario Tech University, CA
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Rabia Akhter,

Ontario Tech University, CA
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Glory Gabel

Ontario Tech University, CA
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Background: Long-term physical/social distancing can exacerbate the negative impact of social isolation among seniors during the pandemic.  Social isolation among older adults is a serious public health concern due to the risk of physical problems and mental health concerns including depression, loneliness, and anxiety.  Persons with dementia (PWD) and their caregivers are at increased risk of experiencing social isolation due to the challenges of cognitive impairment.  To address the negative impacts associated with social isolation, the Oshawa Senior Community Centres (OSCC55+) is one of the leading community organizations in the City of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada who actively develops stimulating community-based programs for older adults with dementia and their caregivers to combat the negative effects of social isolation. The primary purpose of this proposed project is to evaluate the effectiveness of OSCC55+’s virtual, online programs in addressing the needs for social connection and interaction with older adults with dementia and their caregivers during COVID-19 pandemic, with emphasis on providing recommendations on how to better engage, communicate and deliver services/program to older adults with cognitive impairments.

Methodology:  A mixed methods research design was used to examine the lived experiences of PWD and their caregivers during COVID-19 physical distancing, and to evaluate the feasibility, satisfaction, and effectiveness of virtual community-based programs by OSCC55+ to promote social connectedness during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A mixed methods methodology with quantitative surveys and qualitative methodology using individual in-depth interviews and focus groups was employed to explore the perspectives of PWD, informal caregivers, and program facilitators regarding their experiences of OSCC55+ virtual programs (ie. Adult Day Programs), including program barriers, facilitators and opportunities.

Findings: This project included: (1) Client Interviews: individual in-depth interviews conducted with PWD from each of OSCC55+ virtual programs targeting senior clients with cognitive impairment; (2) Caregiver Focus Groups: Focus groups conducted with informal caregivers from each virtual program; (3) Surveys for Program Staff: OSCC55+ and City of Oshawa Customer Service Staff were surveyed to explore gaps and opportunities to improve the social engagement of clients and customers with cognitive impairment.  Findings from the survey provided recommendations that will benefit the service delivery of City staff and ongoing quality improvement of virtual programming. A qualitative thematic analysis generated overarching themes to highlight the lessons learned from the current OSCC55+ virtual programs in their effort to mitigate the risk of social isolation among older adults with cognitive impairment, and their caregivers during the pandemic.

Conclusion:  This project will have the impact of providing important insights about the effects of utilizing digital technology, building capacity of volunteer workforce and community partnerships to support social connectedness of older adults with cognitive impairment. Study implications include: (1) Ways to promote the social engagement of seniors using virtual programming; (2) Strategies to improve access to the delivery of program services for seniors and caregivers in isolation; (3) Insights into the allocation of resource management and supports that facilitate equitable program access; and (4) Recommendations to highlight areas to strengthen the competency of volunteer workforce through effective training and education.


How to Cite: Sun W, Akhter R, Gabel G. Developing and Evaluating Virtual Programs for Persons with Dementia During the Pandemic and Beyond. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2022;22(S3):328. DOI:
Published on 04 Nov 2022.


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