Why Not Now? The Java Music Club Addresses Ontario’s Bold Five-Year Strategy

In its comprehensive report, “Why Not Now?”, the long term care innovation expert panel has a vision for Ontario’s system of care for older adults that:

  • Promotes health and well-being;
  • Empowers older Ontarians to make informed choices and take control of their lives
    and their care.

How does the Java Music Club address this vision?

  • The Java Music Club is the first evidence-based mutual support group program specifically designed to address loneliness and depression within long term care.
  • It is an activity program that incorporates set guidelines, researched discussion themes, quotations, large format photography, pre-recorded music and a traditional ‘talking stick’ to stimulate active participation among group members.
  • Discussion about personal challenges and solutions is encouraged. Through sharing in a safe setting, friendships form as well as a sense of community grows based on residents helping residents. Positive mutual support and trust develops and members are provided with tools to become mentors to those in their community that are socially isolated.
  • There is an emerging body of research that documents the effectiveness of mutual support groups such as the Java Music Club, in alleviating loneliness and depression particularly for those living with cognitive impairment and other challenges.
  • The Java Music Club also provides a foundation and a linking structure that enhances the effectiveness and representation of resident council meetings.

The Three Strategies and the Java Music Club

STRATEGY 1  Reengineer Long Term Care to Meet Consumer Expectations & System Needs

Action 2: Develop New Service and Business Models

Long term care is becoming a care setting for increasing numbers of people with severe mental illness and complex psycho-social needs (p. 44).

Research shows that mutual support groups are a cost-effective way to reduce loneliness, social isolation and depression. This impacts operating costs.

  • The Java Music Club plays a central role in Culture Change by promoting a standard of positive mutual support that residents, staff, families and administrators can apply in all aspects of life in the care home.
  • Its core principles echo the trends identified in the report: “person-centred care with emphasis on choice, autonomy and dignity, and promotion of social interaction, communication and partnership among staff, management, patients/residents/clients and families”.

STRATEGY 2 Build Capacity for Transformation

Action 1: Strengthen the Care Team

Strengthening clinical leadership and improving the knowledge base of all staff are key to innovating LTC service organization and delivery (p.49).

Currently, most recreation staff simply do not have the training or resources to address the increasing emotional and mental health needs.

  • The Java Music Club provides theoretical and practical training for staff, expanding their knowledge base so that they are equipped to better meet these needs. Training comes with the program on a DVD and evaluation and certification is provided.

To build capacity for transformation, the report identifies expanded roles for PSWs and engaging the residents in self-care as part of the solution.

  • The Java Music Club can be facilitated by PSWs as well as high-functioning group members (residents/clients) with minimal training.
  • In addition, the program manual provides residents/clients practical resources that empower them to seek out and support their lonely and isolated peers.

STRATEGY 3 Enable User Driven Innovation

Action 2: Invest in Applied Research

Strategy 3 of the report stresses the critical need for user-driven innovation and investments in applied research.

  • Residents participated in the development of the pilot Java Music Club program and the research conducted at Simon Fraser University with funding from SSHRC, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and BC Network of Aging Research.  The research has been recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Gerontology.
  • Expanding the use of this evidence-based standardized mutual support program is in keeping with the national knowledge translation efforts to incorporate evidence-based research into the practices of health professionals.
  • The report recognizes there is opportunity to improve uptake of evidence in front-line care delivery. There is a growing body of evidence linking loneliness and depression to aggression and the effectiveness of peer-support to target these mental and emotional health issues.


Innovation lies in the implementation (p.77)

Given the disparity between the unmet needs of residents and the costs of individual care, the Java Music Club is an innovative approach to decreasing the loneliness, helplessness and depression currently prevalent within long term care and can help to reduce the tremendous associated social and economic costs.

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