By Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy
For a printable pdf of Fountain of Health: Brain Power to Age Well, click here.
The Fountain of Health Initiative for Optimal Aging is a national mental health promotion project developed in Nova Scotia that is aimed at helping Canadians to optimize brain health over the lifespan. In partnership with 15 different provincial and national organizations, the initiative aims to improve negative attitudes about aging, promote mental and cognitive health while preventing illness through evidence-based health behaviour changes.
Led by the Geriatric Psychiatry Program at Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia Health Authority, the Fountain of Health highlights five key science-based ways to protect brain health with age:
1) Keeping physically active;
2) Staying socially active;
3) Engaging in lifelong learning;
4) Taking care of our mental health; and
5) Changing how we think about aging.
The evidence base behind the Fountain of Health serves to debunk negative stereotypes associated with aging. Science indicates staying active socially, physically and cognitively leads to better health outcomes over time: happiness, coping, resilience and life satisfaction can increase with age.1 Furthermore, negative attitudes about aging can serve as a self-fulfilling prophesy.2 Negative aging beliefs increase risks of illness and disability; positive aging attitudes are linked to improved health behaviours such as exercising 3,4 and improved outcomes such as longer life5.
Fountain of Health tools support clinicians to help clients make health behaviour changes. Tools range from an “enhanced” Cognitive Behavioural Group Therapy manual ( modified for the treatment of depressed and anxious seniors), a take-home handbook, and a website, health quiz and short video to help promote resilience with aging, for use in the busy clinical setting.
“The Fountain of Health 5-point questionnaire and handbook are useful tools in the office to help patients age productively. Fountain of Health provides a roadmap to avoid the cultural potholes and stereotypes that get in the way of healthy aging.” – Dr. Roger Hamilton, Wolfville NS.
“Fountain of Health educates both practitioners and patients about the importance of taking the opportunity to shape the way we live and age by examining our beliefs, values and actions. Offering it to patients was like injecting optimism into their sense and the importance of aging well.” — Dr. Maria J Patriquin, Family Physician & founder of Living Well Integrative Health, Halifax NS
The Fountain of Health is bridging the gap between knowledge and practice in healthcare, through the above
clinician tools to assess and promote wellness strategies in older adults. The initiative also complements other national health promotion efforts such as the Exercise is Medicine program, recently launched in Canada. Offering contributions to “positive psychiatry of aging” in geriatric psychiatry, the Fountain of Health team has provided national and international academic presentations including:
- “The Fountain of Health Initiative: Translation to Clinical Practice,” Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry Annual Scientific Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 2013. Presented by Drs. Vanessa Thoo & Meagan MacNeil, Dalhousie University.
- “The Fountain of Health Initiative and Seniors Mental Health Promotion,” Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry Annual Scientific Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 2014. Presented by Dr. David Conn, Baycrest, University of Toronto.
- “A Wrinkle In Time: The Neurobiology of Healthy Aging,” presented at the Bosch United World College, Germany 2015. Presented by: Dr. Beverley Cassidy, Dalhousie University.
- “Healthy Aging in Canada: The Fountain of Health Initiative,” International Psychogeriatrics Association Conference in Berlin, Germany 2016. Presented by Dr. Beverley Cassidy, Dalhousie University.
- “Neurobiology of Resilience and Healthy Aging.” Pan-European Medico-legal Conference on The Neurobiology of Resilience and Brain Health 2016. Paris, France. Presented by Dr. Beverley Cassidy, Dalhousie University.
To learn more, visit http://fountainofhealth.ca and watch the video, take the healthy aging quiz, or try the positive thinking exercise. Visit “Clinicians’ Corner” to download the Clinicians’ Guide, and to print request copies of the FoH Handbook, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Dilip V. Jeste, Barton W. Palmer, A call for a new positive psychiatry of ageing Br J Psych, 2013, 202, 81–83.
- Wurm S, Warner LM, Ziegelmann JP, Wolff JK, Schüz B, How do negative self-perceptions of aging become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Psychol Aging. 2013, 28(4):1088-97.
- Sargent-Cox KA, Anstey KJ, Luszcz MA. The relationship between change in self-perceptions of aging and physical functioning in older adults. Psychol Aging. 2012, 27(3):750-60.
- Wolff JK, Warner LM, Ziegelmann JP, Wurm S. Psychol Health. What do targeting positive views on ageing add to a physical activity intervention in older adults? Results from a randomised controlled trial. 2014, 29(8):915-32.
- Levy BR, Slade MD, Kunkel SR, Kasl SV. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. J Pers Soc Psychol, 2002, 83(2):261–70.