All in the family: Inspiration for trainee’s career is truly homegrown

Lawrence Ly

Lawrence Ly

Lawrence Ly’s passion for supporting healthy aging has deep roots. As a 15-year-old, his beloved paternal grandmother was moved from his family’s home to a long-term care facility. For three years through high school, he spent time with her and other residents as a volunteer. The experience had a profound impact on him, sowing the seeds for a career devoted to improving the lives of older Canadians.

Born and raised in Edmonton, Ly had a keen interest in long-term care issues. “I followed the news about it because it had such a large bearing on my life and how I went about living it,” he says. “I had spent so much time in that setting and I wanted to understand what was happening.”

It seemed clear that he would be heading into a career in the field of aging and health. Ly admits that it was difficult to figure out how he and his skills fit into it. “Most people in that field have more of a scientific bent, so people were studying to be doctors or nurses, and positions like that,” he explains. “I didn’t like the sciences. My brain is not wired that way, so I was unsure about how to become part of the healthy aging movement.”

Seven years after he attended the University of Alberta, Ly decided to move to Toronto to pursue a master’s degree in Design for Health at OCAD University. It gave him a chance to apply his creative talents. “I used the program to also pursue research about healthy aging and older adults,” he recalls. “What were the practices? What were others doing in the space? I realized my journey into the healthy aging sector would be through design and an understanding of specific aging challenges.”

Those years at OCAD were invaluable in so many ways for Ly. During that time, he first became acquainted with AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, as the recipient of a scholarship in 2018 – an award created to support and prepare the innovators of tomorrow through training and mentorship opportunities.

While completing his education, Ly joined the organization as a knowledge mobilization research assistant, translating relevant findings into infographics and other products for print, website and social media. “AGE-WELL was a unique opportunity to see science, research and creativity come together all in one place,” he says. “They take a very user-focused approach to healthy aging through a very human lens.”

At the same time, Ly was working on a capstone research project – a card game to communicate the concept of aging-in-place and to build participants’ empathy and understanding about the challenges of aging. His idea earned him a top 10 spot at the Ownr Career Launcher for Creative Entrepreneurs pitch competition. He has hopes to move his game forward as an educational and training tool for organizations, older adults, caregivers and their families.

In 2020, Ly landed a contract with CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, where he continued his efforts to improve the lives of older Canadians by designing policy roadmaps, sharing information and research, and supporting outreach to the healthy aging community. Today, he’s a designer at Healthcare Human Factors, working with a team dedicated to designing better – and more human – healthcare experiences for everyone. One of his next projects focuses specifically on older adults.

No matter what projects are keeping Ly busy, thoughts of his grandmother are never far away. “Everything I do is a way to keep the love I have for her alive,” he says. “Through my work, my volunteering… These are the ways that I honour her legacy. I am also thinking of my parents, too, as they age, and how I can support them through my design and research work. Everyone should be able to age in their own way and have the support they need to help them.”