It has now been a month since I left my finals behind and traveled to Europe to begin the International Innovation Project (IIP). We, my fellow IHP OT students and I, have spent times in Iceland, Estonia, and Sweden together, as well as two of us spending a long weekend in Russia. We have one more weekend of travel to Denmark coming up. I have included a photo of our traveling with this post. While the traveling has been amazing and something I will take with me long after the program ends, the main focus of our trip is the IIP, so I’ll focus on that!
The innovation process requires an open mind, patience, and creativity. My team, Team PONS, was given the challenge to come up with a way to motivate seniors in their rehabilitation at the Wilhelmiina foundation (as an American, I would call the foundation a nursing home, just for a reference). Working with other organizations, they are starting a 12 week pilot program to promote aging in place with home healthcare. The Finns have a long history of providing home care to their elderly, and are trying to improve the quality and quantity of home care through the pilot program. Through talking to senior citizens, different organizations, and different staff members, we decided to focus on reducing loneliness as a way to increase motivation. We came up with the idea to do this through narratives and sharing of life stories. We researched, planned, and presented on this idea, but did not receive the kind of the feedback we hoped for. We now realize it was a very lofty goal to try to establish a new program that would be this intensive. The added challenge of having a difficult time find a concrete connection between loneliness and narrative was solved by completely ditching our first idea after presenting it to our classmates and the foundation.
It was definitely alarming going back to the drawing board while everyone else seemed like they were making real progress with their ideas. After talking ourselves into circles, we finally came up with a new concept when we used one of the instructors as a sounding board. We are still focusing on loneliness, but through a much narrower lens, now. We hope to implement a loneliness measure and create some kind of flowchart depicting what to do when someone is identified as lonely or not lonely. While we have talked about using it across different settings (for example at the nursing home, in independent living apartments, and with those receiving home health care), we haven’t quite chosen a direction yet and hope to narrow it tomorrow. We feel like we are finally making progress, which is a relief, but it’s hard to ignore how much work we still have ahead of us. For example, just yesterday, we had to go back to the beginning step of interviewing people involved in the foundation so we can even justify our new idea. Luckily though, there are five people in our group to divide the work, and everyone has helped out.
Our final presentations are in a week, and I’m confident we can pull everything together by then. It’s just going to take some time and some team work. The next few days will be filled with planning, typing, researching, and enjoying the time we have together before going back to our home countries, and I’m excited to spend time with my group. I honestly feel like our new innovation could make a real difference for people, and I’m excited to work on bringing it into reality.