Java Group Programs were created by Kristine Theurer, PhD (University of British Columbia). Kristine has worked in residential care for over 20 years and graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Master of Arts in Gerontology.
She developed and evaluated the Java Group Programs and has received a number of research grants including the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She facilitates workshops and staff trainings and presents regularly at international conferences.
The Beginnings – From Kristine Theurer
“My room is at the end of the world”. That’s what a resident said to me—it broke my heart. I have had over 20 years’ hands-on experience as part of a therapies team working with those living in residential care.
Despite our best efforts, studies report over half of care home residents struggle with loneliness, and that loneliness has been linked with aggression. Aggression—or the expression of unmet needs—continues to make headlines, despite our best efforts.
Is there something different that we can do?
These were the thoughts I had when making the decision to return to school to complete an MA in Gerontology at Simon Fraser University and then a PhD at the University of British Columbia.
Evolutionary theory suggests we are hard wired to help. We look out for one another—because like animals, to be separated from the herd is dangerous. Anger can be self preservation, a reaction to fear.
Research tells us that those who engage in peer support, who help others, are healthier and happier. Although peer support programs are used in the community, they are rare within senior living.
Before coming to Simon Fraser University, I had created and conducted a pilot of a new peer support program where I worked, called the Java Music Club. I called it that as we always served coffee and I knew that few would be interested in attending something called a therapeutic non-pharmacological peer support group intervention!
The results of this program were so successful in engaging residents in helping their peers and building relationships, that I went on to develop additional programs. Java Memory Care is peer support for more advanced dementia, and the Java Mentorship Program is a team made up of volunteers and residents that meet weekly to support those that are lonely and don’t attend social activities offered.
Philosophically grounded in Thomas Kitwood’s theories of Personhood, the main focus is to engage residents in helping each other. Strong, thriving communities are built by changing the focus from what we can do for residents, to what can they do for each other.
Clayton MacKay, CEO and Vice-President
As Co-founder and CEO of the Java Group Programs, Clayton brings many years of business experience. He has served on the Insurance Council of British Columbia and has been a contract supervisor for the Provincial Emergency Program. In addition, he worked closely with Ministry of Health in their third party cost recovery program. Clayton has also volunteered for many years with men in recovery from addiction and has served on a board member for a non-profit agency that provides a vital link in the continuum of recovery services.
He has built an understanding of the strong impact of peer support groups and the ability of these groups to create positive and supportive communities. He currently serves on the committee for the Canadian Culture Change movement called ‘Walk with Me’. His plan for Java Group Programs is to standardize the use of peer support programs within senior living across Canada and the US.
What are Java Group Programs?
Java Group Programs are the first standardized peer support interventions designed to address the critical rates of depression and loneliness across the senior living spectrum and older adults in the community.
The programs are research-based and successfully trialed and tested for effectiveness. They have been implemented in long-term care homes, memory care, assisted living and retirement homes, adult day centers, hospitals and most recently in community centres.
Java Group Programs is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the programs are currently in over 1000 organizations throughout North America.
Loneliness, social isolation and depression is an epidemic. This increases staff burden, sick time and turnover – all linked with substantially higher operating costs.
But there is hope! Peer support is a concept that is already successfully used to reduce loneliness and depression in the community (e.g. the Cancer Society).
Where can the programs be used? Java Group Programs are being implemented in care homes, adult day centers, assisted living and retirement homes, supportive housing, hospitals and community centres.
How do the programs work? The programs are a daily, bi-weekly or weekly activity group facilitated by recreation staff, volunteers, residents and family. Facilitating the programs require no musical ability.
Java Music Club and Java Memory Care use a unique combination of researched themes, photography, music, and readings. The Java Music Club also uses a traditional talking stick to help residents honor each others contributions. All programs come with a standardized staff group manuals and training. Java Mentorship is team made up of residents and volunteers who form a team that meets weekly to learn how to support socially isolated members of their communities.
How do they reduce costs? These programs are the most effective way to address the tremendous socio-economic costs associated with depression and loneliness as it gives participants the practical resources that encourage and empower them to seek out and support their lonely or isolated peers. Homes using these programs have reported a 30% decrease in depression, a 15% decrease in loneliness and a 60% increase in participation in programs.
For details and to order these programs email [email protected] or call toll free: 1-866-523-2411