Kiosks for Living Well

Friday, October 28, 2016
James Burnett
Just a couple weeks ago The Boston Foundation introduced you to the first 24 recipients of our (relatively new) Open Door Grants program.

To recap: ODG is a responsive grantmaking program, rather than a strategic program. Responsive grantmaking means funders give greater voice to nonprofits to determine which programs are working best to serve constituents. Strategic programs require nonprofits' work to fit into a funder's official strategy areas in order to qualify.

And it's important that we remind you that for decades the trend nationally among large funders like The Boston Foundation has been to move away - far away - from responsive grantmaking and adhere, almost exclusively, to strategic grantmaking. Well, ODG was born because TBF decided to buck the trend, go "old school" and make room for some responsive funding, alongside our robust strategic grantmaking work.

Keeping the genesis of ODG in mind, we wanted to introduce you today to one of those unique grant recipients whose work doesn't fit perfectly into any of our strategy areas but is crucial to a segment of the Greater Boston population, nonetheless.

The Kiosks for Living Well, a $50,000 ODG innovation grant recipient, is an initiative of Greater Lynn Senior Services, Inc. (GLSS), dedicated to building healthier communities of older adults.

There are currently seven permanent kiosks in operations throughout the North Shore, with two more ready to come on line in Beverly.  They are located at Senior Centers in Lynn, Beverly, Peabody, and Danvers, and housing complexes in Lynn, Gloucester, and Beverly. And for seniors with limited mobility, there's the Roving Kiosk, which travels around the North Shore making stops on a weekly basis to diverse range of sites, including workplaces, soup kitchens, churches, and more. Check out a short video here.

"The kiosks are designed to be vibrantly appointed and mobile physical spaces that can be embedded at various sites in the community, especially places where people naturally congregate," says Carol Suleski, Director of New Initiatives for Greater Lynn Senior Services, Inc. "They are social magnets, intending to draw more folks to engage in the wide variety of activities which take place at each Kiosk."

A standard Kiosk feature, which you'll see if you visit the video linked above, is the large touch screen It’s Never 2 Late technology platform which allows users – individuals or groups – to participate in many diverse activities from virtual bicycling and exercises, to virtual tours around the world, to airplane piloting, to memory and coordination games, to trivia, karaoke, and music and art therapy programs.  An added feature developed by GLSS is the modules' design around a host of mobility, health, and general well-being issues that include short videos, fun trivia, and handy (printable) tip sheets.

Suleski says the Kiosks also support the monthly Memory Café for folks with severe memory issues and their caregivers. To date, there have been close to 17,000 Kiosk visits by consumers across the region. And that number speaks volumes, considering the Kiosks are only open twice a week for three hours a day. Imagine how many more people they could service at three days a week and six hours per day, or five days per week, or more?

"The technology is a part of the 'magnet,' but the Kiosk is really about helping consumers to learn how to take better care of their health," Suleski says. "The Healthy Heart nurses and Community Health Workers who regularly visit the kiosks take blood pressures and monitor weights, while also offering one-on-one as well as group sessions on diet and exercise.  Where appropriate, a member of the Healthy Heart team will follow up with a consumer at home."

Similarly, the program's Move-Safe Counselor, also visits the Kiosks and offers fall-risk assessments, individualized and group exercises for strengthening balance and coordination, trip planning (focusing on using public transportation where appropriate), travel training, as well as home visits – all to identify and minimize fall hazards and promote consumer mobility and social connections.

And we can't leave out the fact that Kiosk visitors also receive support around stress management and, when appropriate, can be connected with Mental Health Counselors.

Wait, though. This has been a lot of words describing what we can all agree is a wonderful program. But if it still hasn't registered with you just how impactful "outside the box" programs like this can be, consider this:

The Kiosks in Lynn are a part of the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund.  In this program, GLSS embeds a social worker at the Lynn Community Health Center who connects patients there with appropriate services around hypertension and falls reduction at the kiosks. The “community” monitoring at the kiosks has actually saved lives as staff there have identified medications issues, communications issues, and other problems that were escalating to life-threating status.  Providing extensive feedback to Primary Care and Emergency Room teams has made a great difference. Staff have also identified over 100 consumers who did not have any or adequate primary care and effectively referred them to the Health Center and other area Primary Care teams. As part of a new initiative, the Kiosk mental health counselors also work with consumers to reduce their fear of accepting primary care and help them to address key health issues in a more timely, compliant, and comprehensive way. The Kiosk has also supported consumers in moving about the community more effectively, with more confidence and less risk of falls, through travel training, equipment recommendations, and monitoring exercising.

"We are collecting outcomes data as fully as possible," Suleski says. "To date, we know that more than half of the consumers who have come to the Heart Healthy program have seen their blood pressures lowered and the great majority of them report that they are more careful about diet and exercise.  Similarly, consumers in the Move Safe program overwhelming report that they are much more likely to travel around the community with confidence and much more likely to consider using canes and other adaptive equipment when needed."

The Kiosks for Living Well program is the epitome of effective, community-based nonprofit work, and TBF is happy to support it through GLSS.

@JamesBurnett 

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As Greater Boston’s community foundation, the Boston Foundation is focused on the myriad factors which make our city unique and successful.  Read about what we’re up to in the City of Ideas blog.