Project Concept Overview:
This project’s goal is to develop a niche social media network to enable informal ‘caregivers’ of senior citizen family members or other loved ones in Canada to share practical insights and resources with each other.
The vision is for this network to be the one-stop resource to help caregivers in Canada share and quickly access trustworthy recommendations that help them give their loved ones the best care. Unlike the plethora of advice from companies with profit-driven agendas, this solution will give caregivers access to objective recommendations tested by other caregivers who share their challenges.
The network will be scalable but designed to initially address the needs of caregivers in Canada, particularly in Ontario. It is not however intended to replace medical advice, particularly for frail, sick or palliative seniors.
The primary audience for this the Senior Care Share (SCS) network is females and males, aged 45 to 65, who live in Canada and are informal/unpaid caregivers responsible for overseeing a senior citizen parent or other loved one’s healthcare/daily needs. Many of these caregivers work full-time and are called the ‘sandwich generation’ because they are caught between the demands of raising their own children and caring for aging loved ones. One in five of these caregivers are professionals and may have delayed parenthood to build their careers. The secondary audience for this network is younger females and males, aged 23 to 44, living in Canada, who are responsible for an aging family member/loved one and likely the sole contact within the same geographic area.
Urgency and Growing Need:
There are a few other web-based solutions that address caregivers’ individual needs and include isolated features of the proposed network but no other social solution comes close. Specifically, the proposed network will be the only user centric, responsive social network to enable caregivers of seniors in Canada to share practical and locally-relevant recommendations to help them provide the best care for their loved one.
Studies show caregivers, particularly those in the ‘sandwich generation,’ get less sleep, are stressed and often miss work. Younger caregivers in the secondary audience may be without children and just building their careers but their time is still stretched by the demands of caregiving.
Marina Bastawrous, a doctorate researcher at the University of Toronto, is studying the role of adult caregivers in Canada and how they support each other. Her research indicates that many caregivers “wish they had someone to talk to about their experiences.” In her upcoming study (to be published in the Journal Health and Social Care in the Community), she suggests: “online resources or support groups connecting caregivers with one another may be an important way to support Canada’s growing army of adult child caregivers.”
There are approximately six million female and males, aged 45 – 65 in Canada, who oversee a senior citizen parent or other loved one’s care – and this number is rising with our aging population. Given the economic, health and social costs of the ongoing stress these caregivers face, it’s important to hone solutions now to support this growing demographic and minimize the fallout.
This niche network can help fulfil the human need Bastawrous identified by providing time saving information caregivers can appreciate to mitigate their stress. Anecdotally, upon being told about this concept, numerous target audience members in my personal network have suggested such a network would help meet their senior care needs.
Value of an Interactive Solution:
As seniors’ needs change with age, their caregivers must seek and find new solutions. New products and services are also constantly being developed to address seniors’ challenges. Sometimes, local legislation even changes to open new benefits and opportunities to aging Canadians. With fluctuating conditions like these, a dynamic, digital medium is more appropriate that a static solution like a book, brochure or video. An interactive digital solution is also practical for the target, time-stretched audience, as it offers anytime, anywhere access, compared to attending fixed time, off-site workshops on caregiving. Furthermore, this solution has the added benefit of being social, with a community that can easily share or update evolving solutions through an interactive platform.