Debaj hosts CHIR Café Scientifque on Healthy Living with Technology

Elder and cultural advisor Josephine Pelletier speaks at the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Café Scientifique titled ‘the mysteries and challenges of seniors and healthy living with technology’ last month at the Debajehmujig Creation Centre. Ms. Pelleiter, who was one of four experts on the panel, spoke about life as a senior in Wikwemikong and her role in ‘Elders Gone AWOL.’ photo by Robin Burridge

MANITOWANING—The Debajehmujig Storytellers, in a joint project with the Manitoulin Central and Assiginack Family Health Teams (FHT), held a Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Café Scientifique titled ‘the mysteries and challenges of seniors and healthy living with technology’ last month at the Debajehmujig Creation Centre in Manitowaning.

The event was well attended with almost 20 individuals present including seniors, community members and area health care providers.

Nick Head-Petersen, a Masters of Public Health candidate at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), moderated the event, while the expert panel included Marion Maar, geriatrician Janet McElhaney, Debajehmujig artistic producer Ron Berti and elder and cultural advisor Josephine Pelletier.

The first half of the café was comprised of presentations from the panel, followed by a question and answer period.

Ms. Maar, an associate professor of Medical Anthropology at NOSM, was the first to present. Ms. Maar discussed a pilot project she was working on called Dream Global, which is looking at the possibilities of cellphones to connect health care providers with their patients and their health care information.

“With the project we are looking at the use of cellphones and SMS technology to reduce blood pressure,” said Ms. Maar. “Dream Global is an international project designed to address health inequality in hypertension.”

The pilot project is currently being conducted on Manitoulin Island as well as Tanzania. Participants are either using their cellphones or being provided with a cellphone for the project which texts patients about their blood pressure along with reminders to take medication and health and lifestyle tips.

“We hope to implement the project in different countries and a community and see if it is applicable for them,” said Ms. Maar.

The next individual to speak was Ms. Pelletier, an elder and cultural advisor from Wikwemikong. Ms. Pelletier gave a first hand account of what life is like for seniors in her community and walked the audience through a slideshow of Debajehmujig’s production ‘Elders Gone AWOL,’ which showcased the talent of area seniors, including Ms. Pelletier.

Mr. Berti presented the audience with an innovative idea, which could be a reality in the future, using the present technology of touch screen televisions, combined with webcams to create an interactive smart system for seniors to connect them with their neigbours, families and doctor.

The final presentation was from Ms. McElhaney, a geriatrician who discussed the current state of seniors and staying in good shape as you age.

After a short break and refreshments, an open discussion was held allowing the audience to ask questions and have discussions with the panel of experts.

Following the café, Manitoulin Central FHT Executive Director Lori Oswald spoke with The Expositor about the café and how it came to fruition.

“This is our second café,” explained Ms. Oswald. “Our first one was held last November and it went very well also. “Doctor (Maurianne) Reade told us about the project and we applied for the funding. We were very pleased when we were selected. We wanted to have a local element, which is how we got involved in our partnership with Debaj.”

“We hope it is really interesting and that we are engaging people to think about and discuss the concept of how health care is evolving and do so in a creative and interactive way,” added Ms. Oswald.

The Expositor also had the opportunity to speak to some of the seniors who attended the café such as Mary Stacey of Wikwemikong.

“It was great,” said Ms. Stacey of the café. “Really interesting. I have high blood pressure so what is happening with cellphones was especially interesting to me. I’m glad I came.”

Lorraine Riordan of Tehkummah, a retired health care worker, added that she was also pleased with the café.

“I enjoy keeping current with the new trends in health care and got a lot of great information today that I can share with friends,” said Ms. Riordan. “The technological advances that were discussed today were very interesting.”

Though another café is not scheduled for the near future, Ms. Oswald said she hopes that the FHT and Debaj will work together again on another project.

Robin Burridge