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Conference Abstracts

Adopting person-centred approaches in social housing to increase access to health and social care services among older adults

Authors:

Christine Sheppard ,

Sunnybrook Research Institute, St. John’s Rehab Research Program, Canada, CA
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Andrea Austen,

City of Toronto, CA
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Sander Hitzig

Sunnybrook Research Institute, St. John’s Rehab Research Program, Canada, CA
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Abstract

Introduction: Older adults living in social housing are disproportionally impacted by poverty, social isolation, and chronic health conditions that negatively impact their housing stability. Therefore, social housing providers have a vested interest in helping older tenants access health and social care services to promote successful tenancies and foster aging in place. Tenant-facing support staff play a key role in identifying tenants that need support, making referrals to health and social care partners, and following-up to monitor needs; however, not all housing staff are equipped to carry out this role.   

Objectives: We examined the design and implementation of a new ‘seniors’ services coordinator’ role that was introduced into seniors’ designated apartment buildings operated by a large social housing provider in Toronto, Canada. Specifically, we conducted in-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups with 42 housing staff, policy makers, and health partners to explore how the seniors’ services coordinator role was conceptualized and understood by stakeholders, the processes used for building relationships with tenants, and challenges faced connecting vulnerable tenants to services.

Results: Stakeholders were excited about the new seniors’ services coordinator role; as staff were aligned to specific buildings and assigned a small caseload of only 400 tenants, stakeholder felt that the seniors’ services coordinators would be better equipped to build relationships of trust with tenants. Stakeholders believed, however, that more work was needed to teach tenants about this role and how this new staff person can help them. While the seniors’ services coordinators felt they were excelling at identifying the needs of the tenants, system-level challenges, including lack of services and long waitlists, made it difficult for them to follow through with appropriate referrals. They also took on an unexpected role with tenancy management (e.g., rental arrears), and stakeholders felt it was difficult for them to carry out ‘support and referral’ activities while wearing a ‘landlord’ hat.

Conclusions: Findings highlight the opportunity for tenant-facing support staff to provide personalized support to tenants by identifying their needs and making referrals to appropriate health and social care partners. However, tenant boundaries, conflicting roles, and system-level barriers made it difficult it to fully carry out their role.

Implications: Older adults living in social housing need more person-centered services to support tenancies and enhance health. Our findings point to several design and implementation considerations that may impact the success of such tenant-facing support staff, which can serve as a roadmap for other housing providers looking to implement similar initiatives. 

How to Cite: Sheppard C, Austen A, Hitzig S. Adopting person-centred approaches in social housing to increase access to health and social care services among older adults. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2022;22(S3):261. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ijic.ICIC22130
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Published on 04 Nov 2022.

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