Healthy Aging in Alberta – Measuring What Matters 

The recent Healthy Aging in Alberta: Measuring What Matters project led by Imagine Citizens Network, in partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the University of Alberta, was a unique opportunity for citizens to help AHS identify the most important measures of quality in its work with seniors, continuing-care clients, and their supporting caregivers to improve health, well-being and independence.   

Through a series of engagement opportunities, we connected province-wide with older adults with a range of personal and caregiving experiences. Conversations included ethnoculturally diverse people, people with experiences of income insecurity, people in Northern Alberta, and residents in assisted living. The project aimed to reveal process and outcome indicators that participants felt AHS should use to measure its work to support Albertans to age well. The project sought to identify the indicators that are most important and most clearly reflect participants’ values, hopes, and expectations. 

What We Heard 

Various aspects of quality of life were identified as the most important outcome to strive for, measure and report on.  

“Less focus on quantity of life and more focus on quality,” – participant comment   

Project participants told us they wanted AHS to consider quality indicators that provide insight into how effective the system is, how well it communicates, how well connected it is (including connecting traditional health services with related community services), and how forward-thinking it is. They want information about: how people are able to access the healthcare they need, specially trained providers, support to help people stay in their homes as long as possible, and help to navigate the system. People expressed the desire to understand how access or lack of access to care impacts quality of life. The engagement process confirmed that people want information that measures access to respectful care, services, and choices regardless of age, cultural background, financial situation, or language. They want to know people feel safe: safe from harm, and safe to have a voice and choice about their care, day-to-day activities, and living environment.  

Most importantly, people want to know about how all of this affects quality of life. They want to understand how access or lack of access to care impacts quality of life. They want AHS to demonstrate that it is paying attention to happiness and fulfillment, whether people live at home, in supportive living residences or in long term care homes.  Participants also felt that these indicator areas should be targeted – for example: examining regional differences, breaking down the broad category of seniors into smaller age groups to reflect differences along the aging continuum, and acknowledging the experience and unique needs of people from ethnocultural communities. We consistently heard that a one-size fits all approach to supporting older Albertans’ health and well-being does not work. 

Participants identified priority quality indicator categories including: trust, an integrated system, access to other supports, ageism, cultural and safety considerations, and fulfillment and happiness.  

“It’s important to always involve people who you are designing the service for, and not in a token way. It’s good to see this happening.”  – participant comment 

The project confirmed that Albertans are interested in receiving meaningful information that helps us understand how the health system is serving the older adult population in Alberta. Our participants care about their healthcare system and are looking for information that reflects what matters most to them.  

Read the full report on Healthy Aging in Alberta: Measuring What Matters.  

February 2023