AGE-WELL Research

a group of seniorsAGE-WELL consists of a program of research that will lead to the development of innovative and cutting-edge social and technological solutions that will support older adults and caregivers to age well. Our Core Research Program involves an integrated set of eight Workpackages (WPs) to carry out the research and to address the three overarching research questions outlined below. All research will be supported by four core Crosscutting (CC) Activities.

Funding Programs

Crosscutting Activities (CC)

  • CC1 – Knowledge Mobilization (K-MOB)
  • CC2 – Commercialization and Technology Transfer (TECH-TRANS)
  • CC3 – Transdisciplinary Working (T-WORK)
  • CC4 – Training and Mentorship (TRAIN)

Workpackages (WPs)

What are the needs of older adults and caregivers and how could technology be used to meet those needs?

Workpackage WP1 NEEDS-OA – Understanding the Needs of Older Adults

To most effectively harness the power of technology and translate it into practical solutions, it is crucial that the people who will be using the technology are consulted and fully involved from the early stages right through product testing and marketing. Researchers in this theme are centred on understanding the needs, preferences and abilities of older adults related to technology, and on developing tools to include them in all stages of technology development. Traditionally, end-users have been excluded from most of the technology development and testing process, often being brought in at the end to comment on the finished product, device or service. Outcomes of our research will have a significant influence over the technology and aging field.

Core Research Projects
WP 1.1 RRITE – Rural/Remote Indigenous Technology needs Exploration

A critical part of AGE-WELL’s mandate is to develop an in depth understanding of the technology needs and preferences of older adults. This project will focus on reaching out to those who live outside big cities and also to indigenous people. It will ask their opinions of their particular needs and how they think technology might assist in improving their lives. It will also address the challenges of connectivity in remote areas.

Project Leads
  • Debra Morgan, University of Saskatchewan
  • Megan O'Connell, University of Saskatchewan
Affiliated Researchers
  • James Carter, Unknown
  • Wayne Warry, Laurentian University
WP 1.2 TUNGSTEN – Tools for User Needs Gathering to Support Technology Engagement

Older adults have traditionally been left out of the loop in developing technology that is intended for their use — at best they have been consulted only after all the key decisions are made. TUNGSTEN is developing tools and techniques that involve older adults in all stages of the invention, design and testing phases of product devleopment. This includes working to define ideas and key gaps in the market, identify factors that influence decision-making about technology adoption or rejeciton, and preferred methods for advertising and marketing. TUNGSTEN interactive technology workshops bring older adults together with designers and developers along with professionals from organisations supporting later life to work collaboratively on these issues. We are also producing a framework for researchers and innovators to identify which tools to use at which time to ensure maximum participation by older adults.

 

Project Leads
  • Arlene Astell, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
  • Deborah Fels, Ryerson University
WP 1.3 OA-INVOLVE – Older Adults' Active Involvement in Aging and Technology Research and Development

The aim of OA-INVOLVE is to develop best practices to support the active involvement of older adults in AGE-WELL projects. It will focus on understanding how to best incorporate the experience and insight of older adults in aging and technology research.

Project Leads
  • Susan Kirkland, Dalhousie University
  • Judith Sixsmith, The University of Dundee
WP 1.4-S2 – Engaging People Living with Dementia in Product Design, Testing, and Commercialization - A Case Study towards Developing Practice Standards

Increasingly, people with dementia want to be involved in the development of products and services that impact them. However, few resources currently exist to support entrepreneurs looking to engage people with dementia on technology projects. This project will explore how entrepreneurs can engage people with dementia meaningfully and respectfully in the design, testing, and commercialization of information communication technologies (ICTs) intended for their use. We will monitor and document the engagement of people with dementia in design, testing, and commercialization of MemorySparx, a digital memory aid that is currently being developed by Emmetros. Data collected during this study will inform practical resources for entrepreneurs and people with dementia looking to collaborate on technology projects. Ideally, increased engagement of people with dementia will improve the usability and usefulness of products intended for them, enabling these individuals to live independently and with dignity.

Project Leads
  • Lisa Loiselle, University of Waterloo
  • Mark Oremus, University of Waterloo
Workpackage WP2 NEEDS-CG – Understanding the Needs of Caregivers

Family caregivers are a critical to the health and support of older people. It is commonly presumed that providing assistive technology will decrease the burden of their care provision, but we still lack solid research evidence. The aim of NEEDS-CG is to gain a better insight into the opportunities to support caregivers, and develop novel technological solutions that can help them to provide more effective and efficient care, and reduce the burdens/consequences of care and enhance caregiver quality of life. This includes developing various solutions that can be used to help caregivers make more informed decision around the types of technologies that are selected, providing assistance during the use different technological approaches, and connecting caregivers to provide peer support. Similar to NEEDS-OA, the outcomes of NEEDS-CG will be a detailed understanding of the needs and preferences of caregivers, and how best they can be supported through technology. This information will be critical throughout the development of new technologies, and will be invaluable market data for our partners.

Core Research Projects
WP 2.1 INToCARE – Innovative Technology for Caregivers

Informal caregivers provide 75% of the assistance needed for individuals with disabilities to remain in their communities. INToCARE will survey caregivers to better understand their needs and challenges. It will reach out to them as active partners in the development of technologies that could alleviate their burdens.

Project Leads
  • Ben Mortenson, University of British Columbia
  • Francois Routhier, Laval University
Affiliated Researchers
  • Claudine Auger, University of Montreal
  • Janet Fast, University of Alberta
  • Paula Rushton, University of Montreal
  • Andrew Wister, Simon Fraser University
WP 2.2 MovIT-PLUS – Portal for the Systematic Monitoring and Training of User-Caregiver Dyads after Provision of Assistive Devices

In Canada 1.1 million older adults use assistive technology to compensate for physical or cognitive limitations. Many of them also count on informal caregivers, but there is little support to assist the caregivers in the use of these technologies. This project proposes to fill the gap, initially through the development of a web portal for caregivers to allow them to access ongoing training in the uses of mobility assistive devices such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters. The portal will also include other technologies developed under AGE-WELL.

Project Leads
  • Sara Ahmed, McGill University
  • Claudine Auger, University of Montreal
Affiliated Researchers
  • Nathalie Bier, University of Montreal
  • Louise Demers, University of Montreal
  • Manon Guay, University of Sherbrooke
  • Jeff Jutai, University of Ottawa
  • Bill Miller, University of British Columbia
WP 2.3 CARE-RATE – Online Assistive Technology Rating and Recommending System for Caregivers

There are many products that can help support an older adult with dementia to live in the community. But it is often up to family caregivers to find them—a challenging process that can be difficult, frustrating and often futile. The goal of this project is to apply a new type of artificial intelligence called “cognitive computing” to create an online tool that connects family caregivers to products they need to support themselves and the older adult with dementia. While it will be widely available via the Internet, it will be far more specific and powerful than conventional search engines, allowing lay people to describe in plain language what they need and the problem they want to solve.

Project Leads
  • Jennifer Boger, University of Waterloo
  • Frank Rudzicz, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto
Affiliated Researchers
  • Alex Mihailidis, Toronto Rehab Institute, University Health Network
  • Michael Ravenek, Unknown
WP 2.4 ATforCC – Assistive Technologies that Care for the Caregiver

Assistive technologies (AT) are assumed to lighten the burden of family caregivers. But there has been little study of the direct impact—most research focuses on the care recipients. This project will focus directly on the caregivers, to study their needs and how AT affects their lives. Understanding eldercare providers’ unique needs and preferences is critical for the successful development and adoption of AT.

Project Leads
  • Janet Fast, University of Alberta
  • Norah Keating, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • Lili Liu, University of Alberta
  • Ben Mortenson, University of British Columbia
  • Megan Strickfaden, University of Alberta
  • Eleni Stroulia, University of Alberta
WP 2.5-S1 PCOACH – Wearable Caregiver Posture Coaching Feedback System

Low back injuries account for the majority of injuries sustained by caregivers due to transferring from bed to toilet, patient lifting, and bathing. Family caregivers are often thrust into their new roles with no guidance on how to approach these high-risk tasks. We have developed a wearable system that provides real-time feedback to warn caregivers when they bend or twist too far. We call the device PostureCoach.

Project Leads
  • Tilak Dutta, Toronto Rehab Institute/University Health Network
WP 2.6-CAT1 CWiC – Connecting Working Caregivers

Family caregivers are critical to the support and well-being of older people and to the functioning of the health and continuing care sectors that rely so heavily on them. Yet family caregivers are under considerable duress. Most have two jobs: care work and employment. This proposal is positioned at the interface of care and employment with the aim to understand how assistive technologies (AT) might reduce employment consequences for caregivers and downstream costs to employers and other stakeholders.

Caregivers in Canada now comprise nearly ⅓ of the labour market. They commonly report missing part or full days of work, reducing their usual hours of work, and quitting, being fired from or retiring early from their jobs because of their care responsibilities. In turn, employee turnover (>550,000 in 2012), absenteeism (10% of all absenteeism in 2012) and "presenteeism" (being distracted and pre-occupied at work) are downstream threats to performance of individual firms and to innovation and growth in the labour market. Health of the economy more generally may be affected through lost tax revenues and additional social benefit costs.

AT may offer solutions to challenges faced by some working caregivers, but there is still little understanding of how AT might address care-related employment consequences. Some evidence points to benefits from adoption of technologies that help caregivers streamline or reduce care demands, communicate more effectively with care network members, reduce stress, facilitate social engagement, work remotely, etc., but we don’t know how responsive either workplaces or employment consequences are to AT.

The Connecting Working Caregivers pilot/feasibility study will begin to address this gap by engaging AGE-WELL partners as employers of caregivers (partner-employers) in order to determine what role they and their caregiver-employees can envision technology playing in supporting caregiver employees, their willingness to adopt/provide such technologies, and barriers to adoption.

We will first conduct Pulse Check Surveys with 3-4 partner-employers from each sector represented in AGE-WELL (private, public, NGO, post-secondary education). We also will recruit 20 caregiver-employees from each partner-employer’s workplace to complete their own Pulse Check Survey. These short surveys will provide a few key indicators to help us evaluate employers’ and employees’ interest in, competence and confidence with, readiness for, and use of technologies that may help them fulfill their multiple responsibilities as employers and as caregiver-employees. We also will seek to identify workplaces and caregiver-employees that would be willing to test new and emerging technologies in the future.

Finally we will hold consultations with all AGE-WELL partner organizations at a knowledge mobilization forum held in conjunction with the AGE-WELL conference in Montreal on October 18, 2016 where we will release Pulse Check Survey findings, hear from an industry leader and champion of carer-friendly workplaces in the UK, and engage in discussion about the issues that emerged from the pulse check and potential responses to them.

 

Project Leads
  • Janet Fast, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • Nadine Henningsen, Canadian Home Care Association
  • Don Juzwishin, Alberta Health Services
  • Donna Lero, University of Guelph
  • Sandra MacLeod, Employment and Social Development Canada
  • Nora Spinks, Vanier Institute of the Family
  • Madeleine Starr, Carers UK
  • Katherine Wilson, Employers for Carers UK
  • Sue Yeandle, University of Sheffield
WP 2.8-CAT – Understanding how to appropriately support Indigenous families with dementia through digital storytelling: A community-based approach
Project Leads
  • Janet McElhaney,
Affiliated Researchers
  • Hoi Cheu, Laurentian University
  • Sheila Cote-Meek,
  • Taima Moecke-Pickering,
WP 2.9-CAT – Developing User-Centred Digital Supports for Informal Networks that Provide Care for Elders: A Co-Design Approach
Project Leads
  • Myles Leslie, University of Calgary
Affiliated Researchers
  • Francois-Pierre Gauvin,

What technology-based systems and services should be used to enhance the health, well-being of older adults and support independent living?

Workpackage WP3 TECH-FAI – Technology for Supporting Functional Autonomy and Independence

Approximately one-quarter of Canadian seniors reported having some kind of physical, cognitive, or sensory impairment that affected their abilities to perform the common activities of daily living required to maintain their functional autonomy and independence. In addition, losing the ability to complete activities of daily living, such as performing self-care tasks, preparing meals, or completing daily household chores, is often cited by older adults and their caregivers as a key indicator that extra support is required, or that an older adult needs to be removed from his/her own home . Research activities in TECH-FAI are clustered around two areas: technologies that can support older adults in the home and community with cognitive tasks, and technologies that address physical impairments and disabilities that older adult face that often severely restrict their mobility and participating in society. TECH-FAI will result in novel technologies that can be transferred to market through our partners, including robotics, smart home systems, and new application of artificial intelligence and sensing.

Core Research Projects
WP 3.1 VIGIL – Mobile Robotics for Activities of Daily Living Assistance

This project proposes to develop mobile robots to assist older adults living at home. The technology would be capable of conducting “virtual visits” for remote consultations with medical professionals. In addition, the robots will be able to assist with advice on basic household tasks such as meal preparation, exercise/therapy, self-care and scheduling.

Project Leads
  • Francois Michaud, University of Sherbrooke
  • Goldie Nejat, University of Toronto
Affiliated Researchers
  • Isabelle Gaboury, University of Sherbrooke
  • Johane Patenaude, University of Sherbrooke
WP 3.2 CoPILOT – Collaborative Power Mobility for an Aging Population

This project will focus on the development of intelligent scooters and power wheelchairs. They will be designed for older adults whose physical, perceptual or cognitive limitations make it difficult to learn how to drive a powered mobility device. The research team proposes to develop intelligent control technologies that will compensative for the user’s limitations and allow the individual to become more mobile.

Project Leads
  • Bill Miller, University of British Columbia
  • Joelle Pineau, McGill University
Affiliated Researchers
  • Francois Routhier, Laval University
WP 3.3 DIY-AIDE – Adaptable Intelligent Domestic Environments

DIY-AIDE (Do-it-Yourself Adaptable Intelligent Domestic Environments) aims to build a “do-it-yourself” version of a smart-home. The proposal is to connect users with developers of technologies that can assist older adults in the home. It will allow them to communicate in real time about the user’s needs and the developer’s potential technological solutions.

Project Leads
  • Jesse Hoey, University of Waterloo
  • Helene Pigot, University of Sherbrooke
Affiliated Researchers
  • Sylvain Giroux, University of Sherbrooke
  • Dominique Lorrain, University of Sherbrooke
  • Alex Mihailidis, Toronto Rehab Institute, University Health Network
  • Julie Robillard, University of British Columbia
WP 3.6-S5 – Refining a medical device to train and assist individuals with neurological paralysis
Project Leads
  • Bastien Moineau, Toronto Rehab Institute, University Health Network
  • Milos Popovic, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto
WP 3.7-S5 – Barriers and facilitators of integrating an immersive wheelchair simulator (miWe) as a clinical tool for training powered wheelchair driving skills

Training is an essential aspect of power wheelchair (PWC) service delivery. However, training is not provided to a sufficient degree because of lack of time, knowledge and resources, which can lead to sub-optimal wheelchair driving skills and decreased confidence in one’s abilities. Training using a validated and portable virtual reality platform may address the need to increase the amount, frequency and efficacy of PWC skills training. The McGill Immersive Wheelchair simulator (MiWe), which has been already developed and validated for PWC training, is an innovative platform for this purpose. However, integrating MiWe into clinical practice is a challenging process. The ultimate goal of this project is to investigate the potential to implement MiWe as a PWC skills training program in a rehab setting. Stakeholder opinions will be collected through 4 focus groups and an online survey targeting therapists and clinical program directors.

Project Leads
  • Francois Routhier, Laval University
Affiliated Researchers
  • Bill Miller, University of British Columbia
WP 3.8-CAT – Impact of Environmental Awareness on Powered Wheelchair Driving Performance and Safety
Project Leads
  • Bill Miller, University of British Columbia
Affiliated Researchers
  • Dahlia Kairy, University of Montreal
  • Joelle Pineau, McGill University
WP 3.9-CAT – Organizing medication monitoring for the elderly and their caregivers within a business homecare ecosystem
Project Leads
  • Réjean Hébert, University of Montreal
  • Francisco-Javier Olleros, Université du Québec à Montréal
Workpackage WP4 TECH-APS – Technology for Active Participation in Society

Social interaction and support are consistently identified as key aspects of seniors’ quality of life. Lack of communication has been shown to lead to isolation and loneliness, which can result in problems such as depression and cognitive decline for older adults. TECH-APS explores novel technologies that encourage and enable greater social interaction for older adults, and support social participation, including technologies for collaborative play, learning and knowledge sharing.

Core Research Projects
WP 4.1 CONNECT-TECH – Promoting Social Connectedness through New and Innovative Communication Platforms

Research indicates that as many as 43% of older adults living in the community feel socially isolated. The negative effects are well documented: depression, stress, functional decline and death. The goal of this project is to design, create, test and where possible bring to the commercial market new communication technologies for older adults. This project will answer the essential question: can these technologies be helpful in reducing older adults’ feelings of isolation?

Project Leads
  • Ronald Baecker, University of Toronto
  • Sandra Black, Sunnybrook Health Sciences
Affiliated Researchers
  • Cosmin Munteanu, University of Toronto
WP 4.2 CONNECT-PLAY – Promoting Social Connectedness through Playing Together- Digital Social Games for Learning and Entertainment

The goal of this project is to create, research and commercialize digital games to enhance older adults’ quality of life. Some research indicates that digital games can enhance older adults’ happiness, cognitive development and facilitate social interaction. Today’s commercially produced games can pose usability challenges. However, many older adults readily embrace the concept of lifelong learning. The games in this project will focus on social learning. They will involve learning content and/or skills and will be played as social games with other adults or in an inter-generational format.

Project Leads
  • David Kaufman, Simon Fraser University
  • Louise Sauve, Télé-université
Affiliated Researchers
  • Emmanuel Duplaa, University of Ottawa
  • Eugene Loos, University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University
  • Patrick Plante, Télé-université
  • Lise Renaud, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • , Simon Fraser University
WP 4.3 CONNECT-CREATE – Promoting Social Connectedness through Collaborating on Digital Storytelling and Knowledge Creation and Sharing

This project will design technological platforms to enable older adults to use digital storytelling as a means of communicating and socializing. The research team plans to work with older adults in using these platforms and tools to create digital stories covering significant events in their lives and/or their communities. It is a unique means of communication that can be enjoyable, meaningful and life affirming and can assist older adults in continuing to learn, grow and maintain cognitive abilities.

Project Leads
  • Karyn Moffatt, McGill University
  • Cosmin Munteanu, University of Toronto
Affiliated Researchers
  • Eugene Loos, University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University
  • , Simon Fraser University
WP 4.4-CAT1 CONNECT-KT – Supporting our aging workforce: Design requirements for novel retiree continuity management support systems

Retirement has a significant impact, both positive and negative, on the retired person, organization, and on a larger scale, on Canadian industry. For an individual, it can negatively affect their physical, mental, and health status. For an organization, it can mean the loss of information and knowledge. To date, no tools to capture and transfer knowledge have been developed in order to meet the needs and preferences of older workers. Our research will address this need by examining employees' preferences as to the methods and technologies for communicating knowledge before and after retirement. This research focuses on developing a set of design specifications for support systems to manage the continuity of new retirees that are compatible with the needs and preferences of older workers and their successors.

Project Leads
  • Max Evans, McGill University
  • Karyn Moffatt, McGill University
WP 4.6-S3 Lha’hutit’en – Intergenerational Digital Storytelling in a First Nations Community
Project Leads
  • Shannon Freeman, University of Northern British Columbia
  • Jenny Martin,
Workpackage WP5 TECH-DD – Technology for Prevention and Reduction of Disease and Disability

Chronic conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or physical injuries due to falls and other accidents have significant implications for the Canadian economy and healthcare system. However, it has been shown that closely monitoring chronic conditions can significantly reduce the effects of these conditions, as can regular activity and exercise regular physical activity in older adults is associated with an overall improvement in health, functional capacity, quality of life, and independence. The research activities of TECH-DD will focus on: developing novel ambient-based and on-person technologies that can measure physiological and activity data; developing innovative systems that can mitigate the risk of injury from accidents, such as falls; and exploring new innovative technological platforms for exercise and prevention of injury and disability. The outcome of TECH-DD will be technologies that will be ready to be transferred to market through our partners that can help older adults to prevent, mitigate, and monitor various disease conditions. These results will also greatly benefit our various clinical and policy-based partners who have an active interest in adopting new approaches to improve care practices and reduce healthcare expenditures.

Core Research Projects
WP 5.1 AMBI-MON – Ambient-Based Physiological and Functional Monitoring

Effective monitoring of at-risk older adults, whether in the home or in hospital, can help increase their safety, prevent hospitalization and promptly alert health care providers when an intervention is needed. The project aims to develop sensor systems that can be embedded in the person’s environment and that deliver health and functional information in real time. For example, a bed-based pressure sensor will collect information on breathing, bed movements and characteristics of getting out of bed—all helpful in monitoring respiratory health, risk of skin breakdown, and transfer safety. The goal is to quickly detect any changes in health and ability so that early interventions can prevent further decline and enhance safety.

Project Leads
  • Rafik Goubran, Carleton University
  • Frank Knoefel, Bruyere Research Institute
Affiliated Researchers
  • Martin Bouchard, University of Ottawa
  • Jean Chouinard, Elisabeth Bruyere Hospital
  • Hilmi Dajani, University of Ottawa
  • Sarah Fraser, University of Ottawa
  • James Green, Carleton University
WP 5.2 PRED-FALL – Technologies to Predict, Prevent, and Detect Falls

Falls are the largest cause of injuries in adults over age 65. The aim of this project is to develop and evaluate new technologies to predict, detect and prevent falls and fall-related injuries among people at high risk in both long term care and acute care environments. To learn more about predicting falls this project will analyze real life data, acquired both through networks of video cameras in long term care facilities and with wearable sensors. The goal is to identify differences in movement patterns during falls. In the area of fall prevention, the team will develop and evaluate low cost solutions such as compliant flooring, fall mats and padded furniture along with wearable protective gear.

Project Leads
  • Fabio Feldman, Fraser Health
  • Steve Robinovitch, Simon Fraser University
Affiliated Researchers
  • Ryan D'Arcy, Simon Fraser University
  • Dawn Mackey, Simon Fraser University
  • Alex Mihailidis, Toronto Rehab Institute, University Health Network
  • Greg Mori, Simon Fraser University
  • Carolyn Sparrey, Simon Fraser University
WP 5.3 IIES-PHYS – An In-home Intelligent Exercise System for Physical Rehabilitation, Enhancing Musculoskeletal Function, and Preventing Adverse Events

Having easy and frequent access to supervised and well-planned therapy for sensory and motor functions can help ensure the long-term health of older adults. This project will develop technologies that can be used for delivering appropriate, individualized rehabilitation and exercise programs. Two separate approaches are proposed: one that provides frequent, less intense regimes for in home use and the other that provides less frequent but more intense regimes for use under the guidance of a therapist in a rehabilitation or community centre setting. Project co-investigators include Deirdre Dawson, Baycrest/University of Toronto; Nicole Anderson, Baycrest/University of Toronto; Catherine Donnelly, Queens University; Kelly Murphy, Baycrest/University of Toronto and Feng Xie, McMaster University.

Project Leads
  • Mandar Jog, University of Western Ontario
  • Rajni Patel, University of Western Ontario
Affiliated Researchers
  • Christian Duval, Quebec University
  • James Frank, University of Waterloo
  • Robert Teasell, University of Western Ontario
WP 5.4-CAT1 REACT – Using eHealth to enhance the participation of adults with subjective cognitive decline: a pilot feasibility study

Up to 60% of older adults are aware of cognitive changes in their everyday life, despite having no underlying condition. The most common cognitive changes associated with normal aging are in memory and executive functioning, which can have a significantly negative impact on individuals’ ability to live independently and manage aspects of their everyday life.  As such, it is important to make rehabilitation accessible to older adults with cognitive complaints so that they can maintain or improve their participation. In particular, the number of older adults in the workforce is increasing yet we know little about how cognitive complaints affect performance at work. We plan to conduct a clinical trial to test a rehabilitation program designed to help older adults who have some cognitive complaints manage activities of daily living. We will examine if it is possible to deliver this rehabilitation program using videoconferencing so older adults can access care from home.

Project Leads
  • Emily Nalder, University of Toronto
WP 5.5-S2 STIM-OAB – Improved Treatment of Overactive Bladder with Electrical Stimulation

Overactive bladder (OAB) is an incurable urinary disorder that affects 18% of Canadian adults. Successful treatment can improve quality of life by alleviating anxiety, social withdrawal, depression, and preventing falls that come about when people urgently seek the bathroom. OAB is highly prevalent in falls (30%), which are the largest cause of injuries in adults over age 65. Current treatment options for OAB (and limitations) include: (a) pharmaceuticals (poor patient compliance/side effects); (b) spinal nerve stimulation (expensive and invasive implantable device); and (c) tibial nerve stimulation therapy (requires ongoing clinic-based treatment). The overall clinical efficacy of these therapies is notably limited. We have recently discovered a new nerve stimulation target that may provide improved treatment of OAB. The goal of this project is to show improved therapeutic benefit in patients with this novel treatment. The successful completion of this project will allow the introduction of new types of implantable devices and clinic-based treatments.

Project Leads
  • Sasha John, University of Toronto
  • Paul Yoo, University of Toronto
WP 5.6-S4 – Product Verification Testing of a Pressure Ulcer Prevention/Healing Cushion

Pressure ulcer is prevalent in elderly people. The consequences of that are lower quality of life, loss of independence, and in some serious cases death. We felt the necessity of a universal solution and followed all incremental design stages required for developing an effective cushion. We organized a focused group from both experts and end-users for feedback and gradually brought the prototype to a commercially viable product. We strengthen our team by an occupational therapist (OT) with expertise in the area of pressure ulcer. We also received very positive response from both OTs and end-users who visited us in different exhibitions. Our device has also been reviewed by highly credible institutions such as Rick Hansen Foundation and Retirement Concept and they acknowledge the effectiveness of our solution and are participating in this proposal and will help us for its commercialization.

Project Leads
  • Siamak Arzanpour, Simon Fraser University
WP 5.7-S4 WELBI – Effective go-to-market strategy for a modern health monitoring and detection system to increase senior independence.

The purpose for this SIP project is to develop a viable research-based marketing and communication plan for an innovative seniorcare technology company (called Welbi) that is helping improve assistive care of older adults (65 years and older) in Ontario and Quebec.  Welbi has developed an assistive technology (AT) monitoring application that uses off-the-shelf smartbands like Fitbit or Garmin, to keep track of seniors’ everyday health. Welbi can detect present or developing health problems by analyzing the wearables data for pattern and habit changes. The platform is one simple and integrated place for the complex process of health management. The application is a health journal in which a record of health issues and communication between caregivers is kept. Welbi’s AT platform can be easily shared with caregivers whether they are a family member, a doctor, a nurse, or a PSW.

The project will investigate the most effective way to market and brand this assistive platform to caregivers and seniors. Go-to-market information for assistive technologies is badly needed, but currently there is very little knowledge about how companies and projects should properly engage with their users. The project is expected to produce a marketing and communication plan which will help ensure the commercial success and implementation of the seniors care technology company. AGE-WELL’s portfolio of senior care technologies will benefit from this project. Our findings will provide valuable insight to improving the dissemination to users and the market interest of other similar AGE-WELL products and services.

 

Project Leads
  • Jeff Jutai, University of Ottawa
Affiliated Researchers
  • Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau, Welbi
  • Nick Petryna, Other
WP 5.8-S5 – Market Survey to Determine Features of a Wearable Technology for Retaining, Regaining or Improving Hand Function in Seniors

A wearable technology was prototyped to monitor hand and finger activity to encourage seniors to exercise their
hand to recover, retain and/or strengthen hand function. A survey and focus group with healthy seniors and
seniors with health conditions affecting finger and hand function will be conducted. The purpose of this project is to
gather information about desirable features of the technology that may enhance compliance in use. In addition,
information on support services designed to motivate seniors to use the technology, such as mobile device
applications and social media interactions, will be gathered in the surveys. This information will be used to
advance the technology and support services that seniors will likely use to retain or improve quality of life.

 

Project Leads
  • Carlo Menon, Simon Fraser University
Affiliated Researchers
  • Carolyn Weeks-Levy, Simon Fraser University
WP 5.9-CAT – WearCOPD– a wearable application to monitor COPD patients at home: optimizing patient engagement, increasing sensor accuracy, determining the ability to detect early COPD exacerbations
Project Leads
  • Robert Wu, University of Toronto
Affiliated Researchers
  • Hisham Alshaer, University Health Network
  • Andrea Gershon, Sunnybrook Health Sciences
  • Eyal de Lara, University of Toronto
  • Frank Rudzicz, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto
Workpackage WP6 TECH-MCH – Technology for Maintaining Good Mental and Cognitive Health

Currently, 747,000 Canadians have some type of cognitive impairment, including dementia, and this number is expected to double to 1.4 million by 2031[1]. Furthermore, 20% of Canadian seniors are living with a mental illness (MacCourt, 2005), with anxiety and depression frequently co-existing among older adults, more often being associated with dementia. Pain tends to be under-reported and not treated, resulting in agitation and aggression, while mood disorders often go untreated because older adults may not recognize them or they may not report them due to associated social stigma. TECH-MCH will develop software applications for screening, assessment and interventions to enhance mental health and cognitive function, and tools that can automatically detect behaviours that lead to poor cognitive and mental health. TECH-MCH will result in new technologies in an area of application that has been ignored for the most part in the technology and aging field. It will provide tools that can be transferred to market through our various community and clinical partners who can make these tools widely available to the older adult population.

Core Research Projects
WP 6.1 MEN-ASSESS – ICT applications for screening, assessment and interventions to enhance mental health

This project focuses on the use of information communication technologies (ICTs) to provide older adults in the community with access to information that helps them manage the stressors of caregiving. It also provides access to a suite of applications that help older adults to manage their own signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. These apps may also be in the form of games on mobile devices that older adults can use in their own homes to practice cognitive skills including those prescribed by their health professionals.

 

 

Project Leads
  • Mark Chignell, University of Toronto
  • Lili Liu, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • Bob Alosio, Independent (industry representative)
  • Ron Beleno, Independent
  • Marc Kanik, Unknown
  • Jacques Lee, Unknown
  • Eleni Stroulia, University of Alberta
  • Leon Zucherman, University of Toronto
WP 6.2 COG-ASSESS – Automated assessments of cognitive impairment using environment-based sensing

As the variety of sensors and embedded devices on our persons and in our homes increase and their cost plummet, we find ourselves creating a continuous record of multiple aspects of our daily life and activity. Yet, these devices are disconnected from each other and, typically, each one feeds data to a different platform. As a result, their configuration is difficult as is the integrated analysis of their data streams. In this project, we will take advantage of the opportunity that sensors represent today, and we will develop an integrated, easy to configure and to deploy, hardware-software system for analyzing this record for evidence of potential future cognitive decline. This project will investigate the following broad research question: “How can we monitor a person’s daily-life activities through an easily available and inexpensive hardware-software system, in order to recognize changes that predict future cognitive decline?” To that end, we will (a) use a variety of commercial off-the-shelf sensors (from infrared sensors to cameras) and sensor-embedded “smart” devices, (b) design algorithms for analyzing and fusing the sensor data-streams of these devices, as well as the resulting data archives, and (c) develop software systems implementing these algorithms and integrating the physical infrastructure to monitor and predict (hopefully, substantially before current clinical-assessment methods can) if an older adult will suffer from cognitive decline. This work is at the core of the AGE-WELL vision “to help older Canadians to maintain their independence, health and quality of life (QOL) through accessible ICTs that increase their safety and security”; cost-effective technical solutions for recognizing – ahead of time – indicators of potential future cognitive decline will enable independent living for senior adults with peace of mind for them and their families.

Project Leads
  • Eleni Stroulia, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • , University of Manitoba
  • Lili Liu, University of Alberta
  • Jacqueline Rousseau, University of Montreal
WP 6.3 PAIN-ASSESS – Development, Implementation and Evaluation of an Automated Pain Detection System for Older Adults with Dementia

Although pain is very frequent in older populations, older adults are often undertreated for pain, especially those with serious dementia, who live in nursing homes and cannot report their pain because of cognitive impairments that accompany dementia. The goal of this project is to develop and evaluate an affordable technology that will facilitate regular pain assessment with minimal resources. This project will develop an inexpensive vision-based sensor that can be easily implemented in most long-term care facilities. The system will be designed to assist health care staff with pain assessment while at the same time addressing limitations due to staffing shortages. The plan is to test and evaluate the complete system in at least two long term care facilities and determine its impact.

Project Leads
  • Thomas Hadjistavropoulos, University of Regina
  • Babak Taati, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto
Affiliated Researchers
  • Greg Marchildon, University of Toronto
  • Kenneth Prkachin, University of Northern British Columbia
WP 6.4-S1 SPEECH-ASSESS – WinterLight Labs: Cognitive Assessment through Speech

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia and affects 44 million people worldwide. These numbers are predicted to triple by 2050. There is a pressing need for a simple, accessible, and efficient system for detecting and monitoring AD. This would improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s, accelerate clinical trials, and reduce individual and societal costs. Our team has developed a fully-automated assessment that uses natural language and machine learning to detect cognitive impairment. The software analyzes hundreds of variables in speech and language collected in free-form picture description.

Project Leads
  • Frank Rudzicz, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto
WP 6.5-CAT – Assessing cognitive ability using automated assessment of speech
Project Leads
  • Frank Rudzicz, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto

How can innovation be fostered in the short and long-term to benefit older people, health care providers and Canadian Industry?

Workpackage WP7 POLICY-TECH – Health Systems, Practice, Policy, and Regulatory Issues

Technological innovation offers tremendous new opportunities, as well as challenges, to support and enhance the health, safety, independence and well-being of older persons. These technological innovations raise questions about their health system and economic impacts, and about how these technologies should be approved, regulated, reimbursed, and evaluated. The research conducted in POLICY-TECH centres around understanding the current policy and regulatory landscape in Canada related to health technologies for seniors’ health, developing recommendations for how policy frameworks and collaborative partnerships might evolve to support development and appropriate adoption of health technology innovations, and understanding how technological innovations, such as those that yield 'big data', can be used to inform health system-decision-making. The outcomes of POLICY-TECH will be in-depth information and data around the issues that will need to be considered by all AGE-WELL partners as they attempt to bring new technologies and tools to the market, and as new policies are implemented into various programs and healthcare services across all provinces.

Core Research Projects
WP 7.1 PRI-TECH – Policy and Regulatory Issues in Enabling Technological innovation

This project will examine current policy and regulatory frameworks and developments that are relevant to the licensing, approval, regulation, reimbursement and evaluation of new technologies and innovations resulting from AGE-WELL. The development of new technologies demands a new evaluation of the questions they provoke. For example, should “smart systems” used for remote health monitoring be regulated in the same fashion as medical devices? Should payment for these systems be the responsibility of health authorities, insurance companies, or consumers? Recommendations will be made for how innovation in health technologies for older adults can be accommodated and stimulated within existing policy and regulatory frameworks, as well as how these frameworks might be modified to support safe adoption of promising and effective technologies.

Project Leads
  • Don Juzwishin, Alberta Health Services
  • Paul Stolee, University of Waterloo
Affiliated Researchers
  • Sheila Bodemer, University of Waterloo
  • Don Husereau, University of Alberta
  • Pascale Lehoux, University of Montreal
WP 7.2 DRIVE – Developing Regional health InnoVation Ecosystems

Translating AGE-WELL research into practice, policy and commercial applications will require strong partnerships and linkages among researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, and industry. This can be most effectively done at the local or regional level, where the participants can meet and collaborate face-to-face. This project will explore how technology innovations can be fostered and driven in what we are calling Regional Health Innovation Ecosystems (RHIEs). The research team will develop models for AGE-WELL that will facilitate partnerships in local collaborations among researchers, policy makers, practitioners and industry.

 

Project Leads
  • Josephine McMurray, Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Heidi Sveistrup, University of Ottawa
Affiliated Researchers
  • Sheila Bodemer, University of Waterloo
  • James Conklin, Concordia University
  • Ryan D'Arcy, Simon Fraser University
  • Don Juzwishin, Alberta Health Services
  • Pascale Lehoux, University of Montreal
  • Paul Stolee, University of Waterloo
  • David Wolfe, University of Toronto
WP 7.3 3DHC – Data-Driven Decision-making in Healthcare

The provision of health care is moving increasingly from hospitals to the community and home. It is not only cheaper, but provides a more attractive quality of life for older adults. The objective of this project is to develop and prove the feasibility of home health monitoring and data-driven decision making systems. Recent advances in mobile devices, sensor technology, cloud computing, telecommunications and Big Data analytics can empower older adults and their caregivers to continuously monitor their health. This project will fall risk estimation as a pilot application but will also pursue other suitable applications. Usability and acceptability of wearable devices among older Canadians will be investigated as well.

Project Leads
  • John Hirdes, University of Waterloo
  • Joon Lee, University of Waterloo
Affiliated Researchers
  • Sheila Bodemer, University of Waterloo
  • George Heckman, University of Waterloo
  • Jesse Hoey, University of Waterloo
  • Paul Stolee, University of Waterloo
  • James Tung, University of Waterloo
  • Jim Wallace, University of Waterloo
  • Mu Zhu, University of Waterloo
WP 7.4-S2 – Consumer guideline for locator technologies

Three out of five Canadians with dementia wander. Between 2010 and 2014, there was an increase in the number of adults who "wandered off," according to Statistics Canada. An Alberta study has shown that locator devices, which enable caregivers to monitor individuals with dementia, bring peace of mind for the caregiver. However, consumers do not have access to comparative information that can help them choose a locator product that meets their needs. The most frequently asked question of the Alzheimer Society of Ontario relates to these devices. The purpose of this project is to develop an online consumer guideline describing features of commercially-available locator technologies. Anticipated impacts: (a) Canadians caring for those with dementia will have an online resource about locator technology features; (b) locator-device manufacturers will describe product features using a consistent and user-friendly format; and (c) the format of this standard guideline can be used for other consumer products.

Project Leads
  • Lili Liu, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • Cathy Conway, Alzheimer Society of Ontario
  • Alex Mihailidis, Toronto Rehab Institute, University Health Network
Workpackage WP8 ETHICS-TECH – Ethical, Cultural, and Social Aspects of Technology

There is the potential for significant social and ethical issues that can arise with the use of new advanced technologies in the care and support of older adults, particularly in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence and sensors that collect potentially sensitive data. ETHICS-TECH will focus its research around developing conceptual frameworks and methodologies for structuring research and facilitating policy in the nexus of aging, disability and technology, and investigating ethical, privacy, and security factors that are most likely to contribute to disparities in the usage of emerging technologies. ETHICS-TECH will result in an understanding of the various factors that may affect the acceptance of assistive technologies, specifically the technologies being developed in AGE-WELL, by older adults and their caregivers.


Vision Statement

Core Research Projects
WP 8.1 AT-SELECT – Understanding the issues around adoption of e-decision support for self-selection of assistive technology by elders

This project will investigate factors that contribute to the adoption of an e-decision assistive technology (AT) tool for older adults and their caregivers. The project has two objectives: 1) to evaluate the feasibility of adapting a UK e-decision support system to the English and French Canadian context and 2) to explore the readiness for an e-decision support system for self-selection of AT in Canada. This project will investigate the cultural, ethical, and social issues that surround the adoption of such a technology.

Project Leads
  • Claudine Auger, University of Montreal
  • Manon Guay, University of Sherbrooke
WP 8.2 ADT – Aging, Disability and Technology: a framework for research, implementation and policy

The current policies for technology funding and services are not coordinated and vary across Canada. This project will study how assistive technologies are accessed by Canadians and will identify funding and services gaps. The research team will explore the ethical, social, and policy issues, including data privacy and confidentiality. They will also work with policy makers, the users of technology, researchers, and others affected by the issue to support the development of policies that can improve access to technology in a fair way.

Project Leads
  • Rosalie Wang, University of Toronto
  • Michael Wilson, McMaster University
WP 8.3 PRIV-SENSE – Privacy, Security, and Ethics of the use of Emerging Technologies: Development and Validation of a Framework for Research and Policy

While millions of Canadians with disabilities use technologies to assist them in their daily lives, users’ concerns about ethics, security and privacy limit the diffusion and adoption of information communications technologies. This project aims to develop a framework to describe the influence of ethical, security and privacy factors in technology adoption. It will be achieved through the creation of a mobile application to promote safe and rational medication use by older adults and people with disabilities.

Project Leads
  • Virginie Cobigo, University of Ottawa
  • Jeff Jutai, University of Ottawa
Affiliated Researchers
  • Céline Blanchard, University of Ottawa
  • Ann Cavoukian, Ryerson University
  • Wendy Cukier, Ryerson University
  • Yves Lachapelle, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
WP 8.5-CAT – Implementing changes in technology development practices that protects users’ security and privacy
Project Leads
  • Virginie Cobigo, University of Ottawa
Affiliated Researchers
  • Hajer Chalghoumi, University of Ottawa
  • Amanda Grenier, McMaster University
  • Jeff Jutai, University of Ottawa
  • Karen Kobayashi, University of Victoria
  • Yves Lachapelle, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
  • Johanna Lake, Unknown