AGE-WELL 2020: Charting the Future of Technology and Aging Research in Canada
Speaker: Mimi Lowi-Young, MHA, Chair, Board of Directors, AGE-WELL NCE Inc.
AGE-WELL launches Canada’s technology and aging research agenda at CSPC
The AGE-WELL Network of Centre of Excellence (NCE) has released a first-of-its-kind roadmap to guide Canadian research priorities, policies and practices related to technology and aging from 2020-2025 – a period when most babyboomers will have reached 65.
Unveiled first to CSPC delegates, The Future of Technology and Aging Research in Canada stems from a review of Canadian and international policy priorities related to older adults. The review produced a shortlist of 18 challenges which AGE-WELL presented at public consultations this past summer in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal.
An extensive stakeholder review process, including feedback from over 1,000 stakeholders, helped AGE-WELL to narrow that list to eight challenge areas:
Supportive homes and communities
Health care and health service delivery
Autonomy and independence
Cognitive health and dementia
Mobility and transportation
Health lifestyles and wellness
Financial wellness and employment
“These challenge areas are more than research priorities. They are a call to action and AGE-WELL’s foundation for a future national strategy on technology and aging in Canada,” AGE-WELL chair Mimi Lowi-Young told CSPC delegates.
New technologies and innovative solutions allow older adults to remain in their homes and communities longer, while offering families and caregivers much needed assistance in providing daily care. Technology and the aging sector have become a major focus of research and initiatives in many countries, including Europe’s Active Assisted Living Programme and the international Aging2.0 network.
Launched in 2014, AGE-WELL’s pan-Canadian network brings together more than 200 researchers from multiple disciplines, over 4,500 older adults and caregivers, and 254 industry, government and community partners. Together, they work to accelerate the delivery of real-world solutions to support healthy aging.
“We are here to make sure the solution works for older adults and caregivers by having them involved from the beginning and then building the service delivery model around the technology to make it accessible to all Canadians who need it,” said Lowi-Young, former CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada and one of the architects of Canada’s National Dementia Strategy
This holistic approach to technology and aging research includes working with policymakers at the organizational, municipal, provincial, territorial and federal levels to provide evidence for informed decision making.
“We need everyone at the table and we have to think beyond innovative solutions,” she added. “We also need to be innovative in how we do things across our country by sharing new ideas and co-creating better ways of working.”
Like other NCEs, the network also works with large established companies, small- and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups to ensure the research responds to their needs, and the needs of their customers.
Braze Mobility – one of 12 start-ups supported by AGE-WELL – has commercially launched an add-on system that turns any wheelchair into a smart wheelchair able to help prevent collisions. More than 80 products are currently moving through AGE-WELL’s innovation pipeline.
AGE-WELL is already working in many of the eight challenge areas, “from fundamental research that looks at determining the technology needs of Indigenous communities or developing the next generation of socially assistive robots, to the applied research of adapting smart home technology to long-term care homes and improving access to assistive devices across jurisdictions,” said Lowi-Young.
The challenges also present opportunities for ongoing partnerships and collaborations to support healthy aging. AGE-WELL has launched a request for proposal process for new core research projects in the areas of technology, policy and services.
“We are not just looking to make the next shiny piece of technology,” said Lowi-Young.
Over the past four years AGE-WELL has expanded its mandate beyond research that promotes physical and cognitive health to include areas like financial wellness and employment.