​Pioneer of UHN's NORC Innovation Centre a passionate advocate for aging with dignity

Air Date: November 28, 2023 | Length: 45:42 | Download the transcript 

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Howard Abrams

Episode Description

Dr. Howard Abrams leads a team that is pioneering an innovative solution to the gap in housing for older adults, along with providing health supports so that they can age at home with dignity. It's called NORC – short for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. What is a NORC? Everything from a co-op to a condo to an apartment building where older people make up the majority of residents.

"Most older Canadians want to age in place, they want to age at home…it's where they've lived most of their life, and they know how to do that best,” says Dr. Abrams.

So he and a team at the UHN NORC Innovation Centre in Toronto are helping to organize a structure for providing the necessary supports that allow these hubs of older adults to age in place as opposed to moving into a residential home or long term care. In addition to identifying buildings with the potential to become a NORC, the UHN NORC Innovation Centre organizes a slew of healthcare supports that can include facilitating social connection, and bringing Tai Chi lessons on site, to helping residents get to doctors appointments, as well as providing medical expertise for managing everything from foot care to cardiac issues to high blood sugar due to diabetes. There are now three NORC Innovation Centre project buildings up and running in Toronto, with more in the works. Dr. Abrams explains that the project team is also gathering proof-of-concept evidence and data for publication.

"We're not interested in a successful pilot that results in a publication that expands the knowledge…and then when the funding runs out, that's the end of the program. That's not the way we operate. What we want to do is take the funding, develop the program, and with it, develop a sustainability plan, so that groups that have the resources and the mandate to carry this forward, whether it's a community-based group, or an NGO or a hospital or something in the private sector, would keep it going."

If deemed a success Dr. Abrams says the UHN NORC Innovation Centre project will serve as a template to help scale up NORC buildings for older adults across Ontario and the country.

About Dr. Abrams

Dr. Howard Abrams is a Scientist with TRI KITE; Director and co-founder of UHN OpenLab; and Medical Lead of UHN's NORC Innovation Centre. Dr. Abrams received a BSc in Engineering from the University of Guelph and his MD from McMaster University. He obtained his specialty certificate in Internal Medicine (FRCPC) while at Toronto General Hospital, and trained in Clinical Epidemiology both at McMaster and the University of Toronto. His expertise is in leveraging his over 30 years on the front-line of clinical care with his experience in optimizing processes to achieve successful integration of innovative solutions into the clinical environment. He has been the physician lead on a number of innovations at UHN including the ED-GIM Re-Design project, and one of the first successful introductions of Computer Physician Order Entry (CPOE) at a major academic hospital in North America.

Producer: Christian Coté | Host: Christian Coté | Sound Engineer: 217 Audio

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