January 31, 2024 | News

Funding announcement

Waterloo, Ont. – To address the critical shortage of skilled personal support workers (PSWs) and the pressing demands of Canada’s rapidly aging population, the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA), in collaboration with the Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administrators (CESBA), is excited to announce the launch of an expanded Living Classroom Program with a nearly $11M investment over three years from the Ministry of Long-Term Care. 

“Our government is fixing long-term care by training, hiring and retaining thousands of health care workers to provide high-quality care for residents,” said Stan Cho, Minister of Long-Term Care. “We’re investing in programs that are building a pipeline of talent for the future and giving them more hands-on clinical training so our long-term care residents get the high-quality care they deserve.

By integrating academic excellence with real-world experience in a long-term care setting, the Living Classroom sets a new standard for personal support worker education, ensuring graduates are not just highly qualified, but also deeply connected to the mission and values of compassionate care.

“The Living Classroom is an innovative evidence-informed learning program that will provide students with an enriched educational opportunity where book-learning is coupled with learning alongside long term care staff and residents,” says Tina Mah, executive director at the RIA. “This funding to double the number of Living Classrooms will provide greater access to an Ontario-made education model to meet the unique needs of long-term care home residents.”  

The Living Classroom is an innovative education partnership model that combines theoretical learning with practical, hands-on experience, by placing the classrooms directly into long-term care (LTC) homes. The many benefits of the Living Classroom model include improved PSW recruitment and retention rates, a strengthened senior care workforce with both academic knowledge and practical expertise, and improved quality of care for older adults.

“CESBA and our school board partners are thrilled to work alongside RIA to develop the dedicated, compassionate and work-ready PSWs we need to care for seniors for many years to come,” states Paul Cox, executive director at CESBA. “This collaboration not only leverages our combined expertise but is also a demonstration of our shared commitment to fostering innovative learning environments.”

With this investment, the Living Classroom program will:

  • Provide funding opportunities to support 20 new Living Classrooms, as well as the 20 existing locations, to enhance learning experiences and retention of PSWs. This will support the training of up to 1,300 new personal support workers by 2026.
  • Enhance and sustain collaborations, both locally and provincially, between LTC homes and education providers (colleges and adult education school boards) to integrate education into long-term care to support workforce development, with a focus on rural and northern communities.
  • Provide educational resources, training, and coaching support to LTC homes and educational institutions to enhance and develop Living Classrooms.
  • Evaluate different models of Living Classrooms and their impact on recruitment and retention of PSWs in Ontario LTC homes.

The Living Classroom model was first implemented in Ontario through a partnership with Conestoga College, the RIA and Schlegel Villages. In September 2009, the first Living Classroom opened at the Village of Riverside Glen in Guelph, followed in 2015 by a second Living Classroom at the Village at University Gates in Waterloo. Through the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care, the RIA has provided resources to promote the spread of the Living Classroom model across the province. Since then, 20 new Living Classrooms have opened in LTC homes in collaboration with public colleges and adult and continuing education school boards that offer PSW certificate programs. Many of these LTC homes report that they have experienced a positive impact on their ability to hire new team members.

This initiative is a testament to the RIA and CESBA’s commitment to enhancing care for older adults and innovation in education.

For more information, visit livingclassroom.ca/fund.

About the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging
The Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life and care of older adults. The RIA tackles some of the biggest issues facing an aging population by driving research and innovation to improve education and practice. The RIA develops and shares solutions that make a difference to benefit older adults everywhere. Learn more at www.the-ria.ca.

About the Ontario CLRI
The Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (Ontario CLRI) strengthen the quality of life and care for residents across the province. The Ontario CLRI is hosted at Baycrest Academy for Research and Education, Bruyère Research Institute, and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging, and is funded by the Ministry of Long-Term Care with a mandate to be a resource for the sector by providing education and sharing research and innovations to enhance the health and well-being of people who live and work in long-term care.

CESBA is a provincial, non-profit professional association that represents, advocates for and supports adult and continuing education program staff working in more than 60 school boards across Ontario. CESBA’s mission is to provide adult, alternative and continuing education program staff working in Ontario’s school boards with the knowledge, skills and abilities to assist learners in achieving their education and employment goals.

Media contact
Noel Gruber
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging