Research Themes & Projects

AGE-WELL research projects are organized into eight Workpackages within three main themes.

1) 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 is reaching out to those who live outside big cities and also to Indigenous people. The goal is to explore user needs for two very distinct populations, giving voice to those who aren’t usually part of studies. The project involves asking users’ 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, University of Saskatchewan
  • Wayne Warry, Laurentian University
WP 1.2 TUNGSTEN – Tools for User Needs Gathering to Support Technology Engagement

Older adults have often 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. This project is developing tools to involve older adults in technology development, from the early stages of design and testing of products right through to marketing and advertising.

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 this project is to develop best practices to support the active involvement of older adults in AGE-WELL projects. The work focuses 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 explores 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 are monitoring and documenting 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 critical to the health and support of older people. The aim of this research theme is to gain better insight into how to better support caregivers. Our goal is to support the development of novel technological solutions that can provide more effective and efficient care; reduce the burdens and consequences of care, and also enhance the quality of life of caregivers. We are developing strategies to assist caregivers in making more informed decisions on the selection of technologies. 

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. This project is surveying caregivers to better understand their needs and challenges. It is reaching 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 2.10-SIP A1 – Illustrating Designed Things as Therapy
Project Leads
  • Megan Strickfaden, University of Alberta
WP 2.11-SIP A1 – Caregiver Needs: Data Development and Dissemination
Project Leads
  • Janet Fast, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • Mark Stolow, HUDDOL
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 aims 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 by 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
  • François Routhier, Laval University
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 these products—a challenging process that can be difficult, frustrating and often futile. This project is applying 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, University of Western Ontario
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 centres on the care recipients. This project focuses directly on the caregivers themselves 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 helping with activities such as transferring from bed to toilet, 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

Maintaining both employment and care work is a major challenge faced by the over 5.6 million employed family carers in Canada, most of whom work full-time. Care-related absenteeism, ‘presenteeism’ and turnover are common, and costs to carers and employers can be substantial. Assistive Technologies (ATs) may offer some solutions to this challenge, but studies on adoption of ATs in Canadian workplaces are rare. Using pulse check surveys, our feasibility study engaged AGE-WELL partners as employers to determine what role they and their carer-employees envision technology playing in supporting employees with family care responsibilities, their willingness to adopt/provide such technologies, and barriers to adoption. Stakeholders met October 18, 2016 to learn findings from the pulse check surveys, hear from a U.K. industry leader, and discuss innovative ideas for creating carer-friendly workplaces in Canada. We learned that there are disconnects between employers and carer-employees about their awareness of and understanding about family care as a workplace issue and their beliefs about the use of ATs at work to manage employees’ dual roles. Carer-employees identified several barriers to using ATs that inform product development, including not thinking the person they care for would accept ATs, not knowing what ATs are currently available, and not having enough time to learn how to use ATs. Concerted efforts are also required to bridge the gap between employers and carer-employees to create carer-friendly workplaces, including adopting ATs in the workplace that help carers streamline or reduce care demands, communicate more effectively with care network members, reduce stress and where possible, work remotely.

 

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 2.7-S4 – App Support for Informal Caregiving: Identifying Best Practices for the Implementation of a Technology-enhanced Homecare Service for Older Adults Living with Chronic Conditions.

Technology systems for supporting older adults living with chronic conditions in their homes are growing, which helps to alleviate some of the burden being experienced by caregivers. However, there are a number of barriers to widespread implementation and avoiding these challenges requires insights from ‘real-world’ applications. Our industry partner, Mavencare™ (www.mavencare.com) offers an innovative technology-enhanced homecare service whereby Mavencare™ staff providing care inputs regular updates via an App that caregivers can access. This project will provide insights from: a) caregivers who use Mavencare™ 's App to understand how the App influences their caregiving experience; b) caregivers who do not use the App to determine barriers to adoption; and c) Mavencare™ staff to learn how the technology has influenced their daily practice. The knowledge gained will be mobilized to inform further business development and ‘best practices’ regarding the implementation of a commercially-available technology-enhanced home-care service.

Project Leads
  • Sander Hitzig, Sunnybrook Health Sciences
WP 2.8-CAT – Understanding how to Appropriately Support Indigenous Families with Dementia through Digital Storytelling: A Community-based Approach

First Nations (FN) populations in Canada are rapidly aging and chronic diseases are epidemic. Dementia rates reported to be 34% higher in Indigenous compared to non-Indigenous people may be explained by the earlier onset of multiple chronic conditions (MCC) that have been linked to increased risk for dementia. Compared with non-Indigenous Canadians, Indigenous people experience more severe health, social and economic issues. Health inequities lead to onset of multi-morbidity at a much younger age in Indigenous persons and are further complicated by the challenges of healthcare delivery to rural and remote communities and potential inequities in access to health care.

Digital storytelling is a form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their life story. The method aligns with the Indigenous ways of knowing. “Story is a practice in Indigenous cultures that sustains communities, validates experiences and epistemologies, and expresses experiences of Indigenous peoples, and nurtures relationships and the sharing of knowledge. Storytelling is also a central focus of Indigenous epistemologies, pedagogies, and research approaches.” Storytelling and the value of interpretative ethnography as a research method are shaping the emerging culture of translational research. The media used may include the digital equivalent of film techniques, stills, audio only, or any forms of material that exists only as electronic files, which individuals can use to tell a story or present an idea.

The purpose of this project is to introduce Digital storytelling as a technology to facilitate knowledge-sharing around common caregiver experiences and patterns through storytelling. Digital storytelling will then be integrated into the training sessions for caregivers and as tools to promote community-driven models to address the emerging health issues related to dementia diagnoses for Indigenous peoples in Canada. We will measure the impact of Digital storytelling in the development of community-driven dementia care models.

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

Informal care networks provide the majority of care to a growing population of Canadian elders. The proposed project seeks to co-design a digital application to support the lives and efforts of these informal caregivers. For such an application to successfully free up time, reduce burnout, improve care, and increase wellbeing it must originate from the needs and priorities of informal caregivers themselves. To accomplish this sort of ‘user centered design,’ the project will use a modified version of the collaborative Design Thinking Process (DTP) to map challenges and imagine feasible technology-enabled solutions. Our working assumptions going into the DTP are that cloud-based recruitment, scheduling, communication, knowledge bank, service navigation, and patient sensing elements have the potential to support the work of informal care networks. Over the course of a Citizen Panel session (step one in the DTP), a Delphi priority setting exercise (step two) and a Design Thinking co-development event (step three), these assumptions will be tested against the real-world experience of caregivers, the technical know-how of software engineers, and the implementation expertise of healthcare quality and safety specialists allowing us to prioritize certain elements for development, and to produce a prototype digital application that truly assists informal caregivers.

Project Leads
  • Myles Leslie, University of Leicester
Affiliated Researchers
  • Francois-Pierre Gauvin,

2) 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 report having some kind of physical, cognitive or sensory impairment that affects their ability to perform the common activities of daily living. TECH-FAI research focuses on two areas that can support older adults in the home and community with cognitive tasks, and technologies that address physical impairments and disabilities faced by older adults that often severely restrict their mobility and ability to remain independent. 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 focuses on the development of mobile robots to assist older adults living at home. The technology will 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 focuses on the development of intelligent scooters and power wheelchairs. These are being 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 is developing  intelligent control technologies that 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 idea 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 3.5-S5 – Lightweight Electronic Reacher to Reduce Falls and Increase Independence Among Seniors

A reacher is an assistive device that allows the user to perform simple daily tasks such as safely picking up items that cannot easily be reached. Using a reacher reduces falls among seniors and provides greater independence for those with physical disabilities. However, existing reachers are manually actuated and wholly unsuitable for seniors with weakened grip strength, such as the 2.1 million Canadian seniors suffering from arthritis. In response to this need, we have developed a lightweight electronic reacher that multiplies force through the application of battery power, making it suitable for use by seniors suffering from arthritis. This project will advance the electronic reacher to market readiness by refining the engineering and industrial designs, finalizing the business plan and go-to-market strategy, evaluating the patentability and estimating production costs. This product will offer seniors who cannot operate manual reachers the same benefits of enhanced independence and reduced injuries.

Project Leads
  • James McIntyre, George Brown College
WP 3.6-S5 – Refining a Medical Device to Train and Assist Individuals with Neurological Paralysis

Sustaining a stroke or spinal cord injury (SCI) negatively impacts the quality of life of older adults by restricting the individual’s functional independence. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a promising rehabilitation intervention to improve motor function following paralysis from stroke and SCI. To facilitate the therapeutic benefits of FES, our team, in collaboration with our industrial partner (Myant Inc.), has developed innovative wearable garments that are embedded with FES-electrodes to help restore function in upper and lower limbs. To help advance our goal of commercializing these devices, we will conduct focus groups with end-users (patients and clinicians) to gain their perspectives on the prototypes. A content analysis of the discussions will highlight their concerns and expectations. The outcomes of this work will help to enhance the relevance of the devices to these populations while also providing strategies on ways to effectively bring the device to the market.

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 four 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

Individuals who do not have the strength to propel themselves in manual wheelchairs can benefit greatly from the use of powered wheelchairs, which have been linked to a higher overall quality of life. According to a report, however, 20% of power mobility devices users had experienced at least one major collision within the last year, and 11% of these users had been hospitalized. Powered wheelchair users of all ages have reported that they often face difficulties while navigating tight spaces and backing up. Although new cars have sensors that assist in backing up and collision avoidance (and are mandated in the U.S.), commercial wheelchairs do not have this technology. Our proposed research aims to understand the impact of environmental awareness on driving performance. Existing intelligent wheelchair research has attempted to autonomously or semi-autonomously perform tasks such as collision avoidance and backing up; however little attention has been paid to exploring environmental awareness with current commercial wheelchairs, and to understanding how this awareness impacts performance while executing challenging driving maneuvers. Further investigation in these areas can lead to the development of new tools that not only assist novice drivers as they learn how to drive powered wheelchairs, but also help drivers who are excluded from powered wheelchair use due to safety concerns, especially if they have deteriorating physical and/or cognitive conditions. It is anticipated that this project will 1) create tools to evaluate environmental awareness with existing chairs and drivers, 2) help understand the role of environmental awareness while driving, 3) provide recommendations on tools that might enhance environmental awareness, and 4) potentially help increase access to powered wheelchairs and safety for a large population that is currently excluded. This pilot will be the start of an iterative process to evaluate various technologies developed within AGE-WELL WP3 (Technology for Supporting Functional Autonomy and Independence) with stakeholders.

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

In most industrialized countries, seniors make up the fastest growing age group. All Canadian provinces’ health systems are concerned since patients over the age of 65 are among the top users of healthcare resources. In Quebec, as of July 2016, the proportion of people aged 65 and over was estimated at 18.1% in 2016, 25.2% in 2031 and 28.5% in 2061.

Constant medication monitoring is crucial to maintaining satisfactory health since persistent pain is highly prevalent, costly and frequently disabling in the older patient’s life (Makris, Abrams, Gurland, & Reid, 2014; Weiner & Rudy, 2002).

Unfortunately, currently, medication monitoring is far from being secure, due to frequent errors, from the loss of medication to confusion in medication intakes. When the elderly struggle with multiple disease states and chronic conditions, medication regimes that are not well controlled might be a source of drug misadventures and adverse effects, including morbidity and mortality (McDonnell, Jacobs, Monsanto, & Kaiser, 2002). Mismanaged medication is also an important driver of hospital admissions, increasing health costs (Osterberg & Blaschke, 2005). Therefore, the research and development firm MediPense is working on a smart personal medication dispensing and remote monitoring solution that can assist seniors with their medication management in their homes. MediPense is joining its efforts to the RxPense® firm (RxPense, 2016), taking charge of the whole range of device commercialization in Quebec and in other Canadian provinces and territories.

The RxPense technology has the potential to transform the medication intake monitoring practice through smart digital surveillance. This research project is a preliminary proof-of-concept study of organizing medication monitoring for the elderly and their caregivers within a business ecosystem of homecare where the social, ethical, economic and policy implications are considered. It aims to describe and explain how and why RxPense is adopted and how it might reduce hospitalization costs while increasing homecare quality.

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
  • Julie Maitland, Accreon Inc.
  • 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 focus on social learning. They 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
  • Julie Maitland, Accreon Inc.
  • 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 focuses on designing technological platforms to enable older adults to use digital storytelling as a means of communicating and socializing. The research involves working 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
  • Julie Maitland, Accreon Inc.
  • , 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, retirement can negatively affect their physical, mental, and health status. For an organization, it can mean the loss of information and knowledge. To date, tools have not been developed to capture and transfer knowledge in order to meet the needs and preferences of older workers. Our research addresses 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
Affiliated Researchers
  • Julie Maitland, Accreon Inc.
WP 4.6-S3 Lha’hutit’en – Lha’hutit’en - Intergenerational Digital Storytelling in a First Nations Community

The Nak’azdli Band is in need of a means to strengthen intergenerational linkages between elders and youth to preserve cultural wisdom held by the elders for future generations. Under the direction of the Nak’azdli Health Centre, a Nak’azdli elder’s survey was conducted in the spring of 2016. This survey identified that sharing cultural knowledge and traditions was a priority for Nak’azdli Elders. This is understandable as elders cope with adapting to a fast-changing society and the loss of elders in death. Our team agreed to introduce a digital storytelling workshop using technology as a means to facilitate knowledge-sharing between elders and youths. This pilot workshop involves Nak’albun Elementary School students and Nak’azdli Elders. The project’s intended outcome is to integrate digital storytelling into the school curriculum and support elders working with youths in a meaningful way to bridge the intergenerational divide and preserve their culture and lived experiences.

Project Leads
  • Shannon Freeman, University of Northern British Columbia
  • Jenny Martin,
Affiliated Researchers
  • Julie Maitland, Accreon Inc.
WP 4.7-S3 ACCESS-H-INFO – Language Customization Tool to Simplify Health Information

Imagine a world where patients and caregivers alike can adapt digital health information with the click of a button to their desired reading level. Our Language Customization Tool to Simplify Health Information aims to do that, and with this help the 88% of Canadian seniors who are considered low-literate and who struggle to understand and trust health information they find online. It is especially necessary given shifts to self-managed care that require patients to read more complex health information than ever before, without burdening their healthcare providers with requests to translate online information for them. This project has the potential to impact millions of Canadians; transform knowledge mobilization practices with increased information personalization; make critical online information truly accessible to everyone but particularly to seniors; revolutionize how people interact with information online; and improve decision-making shared between patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

Project Leads
  • Cosmin Munteanu, University of Toronto
Affiliated Researchers
  • Julie Maitland, Accreon Inc.
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 costs for people, the healthcare system and the Canadian economy. However, close monitoring of chronic conditions can significantly reduce their effects. In addition, regular activity and exercise in older adults is associated with an overall improvement in health, functional capacity, quality of life and independence. Research in TECH-DD is producing technologies and tools that will help to actively engage older adults in society. We are developing novel ambient-based and on-person technologies that can measure physiological and activity data; systems that can mitigate the risk of injury from accidents, such as falls; and new technological platforms for exercise and prevention of injury and disability. These technologies will be transferred to market through our industry partners. Results will also inform 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. This project focuses on the development of 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
  • , Simon Fraser University
  • 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, we are analyzing real-life data, acquired both through networks of video cameras in long-term care facilities and with wearable sensors. Our goal is to identify differences in movement patterns during falls. In the area of fall prevention, the team is developing and evaluating 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
  • Omar Aziz, Simon Fraser University
  • Ryan D'Arcy, Simon Fraser University
  • Jane Devji, Delta View Enrichment Centre
  • Salim Devji, Delta View Enrichment Centre
  • Samudra Dissanayake, Innovation Boulevard
  • , Simon Fraser University
  • Leslie Karmazinuk, New Vista Society
  • Karim Khan, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility
  • , University of Manitoba
  • , St. Michael's Hospital
  • Ming Leung, New Vista Society
  • Dawn Mackey, Simon Fraser University
  • Alex Mihailidis, Toronto Rehab Institute, University Health Network
  • Greg Mori, Simon Fraser University
  • Emily O'Hearn, Simon Fraser University
  • Carolyn Sparrey, Simon Fraser University
  • Yijian Yang, University of British Columbia
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 team is developing 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, Queen’s 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. 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. Our goal 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 ulcers are prevalent in elderly people. Consequences include poorer quality of life, loss of independence and, in some serious cases, death. We have developed an effective “intelligent” wheelchair cushion to help in the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers. All features have been tested in the lab environment. Experts and end-users have provided feedback. Final testing will now be conducted with end-users to ensure the device’s performance in real-world situations. Partners on this project are the Rick Hansen Institute and Retirement Concepts, which will help us to evaluate and commercialize this device.

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 of this project is to develop a viable research-based marketing and communication plan for an innovative senior care technology company (called Welbi) that is helping to improve assistive care of older adults (65 years and older) in Ontario and Quebec. 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 insights to improve the dissemination of other similar AGE-WELL products and services to users and the market.

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

To encourage seniors to exercise their hand to recover, retain and/or strengthen hand function, a wearable technology was prototyped to monitor hand and finger activity. We will be conducting  a survey and focus group with healthy seniors and seniors with health conditions affecting finger and hand function. 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

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide, affects 1 in 4 adults and is a disabling chronic disease that incurs high cost to the healthcare system. Even with optimal treatment, COPD patients frequently experience exacerbations or worsening of their condition and are sometimes hospitalized. Ideally, exacerbations would be treated early before becoming severe. We may be able to pre-empt exacerbations by using wearable technology that senses subtle abnormalities in physiological signals which herald early exacerbations.

Our goal is to improve the care of people with COPD and reduce hospitalizations by providing patients with a way to monitor their condition and detect early exacerbations, allowing for timely intervention. We are developing and validating sensors on wearable devices that will continually monitor vital signs, physical activity and coughing. We will improve the accuracy of the sensors to optimize its ability to detect subtle changes in factors known to be affected by COPD such as physical activity and coughing, and explore new factors such as heart rate and respiratory rate that may characterize early exacerbations. We will then collect data from COPD patients to train a machine-learning algorithm to determine what characteristics and combinations of these parameters herald an oncoming exacerbation.

Furthermore, we are conducting patient engagement interviews to determine what sort of device is useful, appealing and accessible for elderly patients with COPD. Our research also trains personnel in the exciting intersection of wearable development, machine learning and health care.

There are approximately 37,000 COPD hospitalizations annually in Ontario that have an average cost of $10,086 each. If this new technology succeeds in preventing even 1%, the potential savings are $3.7 million. Our hope is that this wearable sensing platform can eventually be used in other chronic diseases as well.

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. This number is expected to double to 1.4 million by 2031. Furthermore, 20% of Canadian seniors are living with a mental illness, anxiety and depression. Pain tends to be under-reported and not treated, resulting in agitation and aggression, while mood disorders often go untreated. Researchers in TECH-MCH are developing software applications for screening and assessment, 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 that has largely been ignored in the technology and aging field.

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

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? That is the broad research question being investigated by this project. 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 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 through accessible information communication technologies 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 older adults, providing peace of mind for seniors 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

Pain is very common in older populations. However, 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. Our project involves an inexpensive vision-based sensor that can be easily implemented in most long-term care facilities. The system is being 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

Clinical measures of cognition typically rely on time-consuming, subjective and expensive assessments. However, our recent advances in computational linguistics, signal processing, and machine learning now allow for objective, automatic, and rapid analysis of cognition, through speech. Our prior work has focused on binary classification problems between people with or without a particular disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease. In this grant, we will use these modern tools to objectively assess cognition, differentially in people with post-stroke aphasia and memory impairment, by measures of speech and language at 5 time points. This will be applied to a new technological medium – the telephone, which will allow for broader data collection and unique insights in human-computer interaction.

Dr. Frank Rudzicz leads this project, with two industrial partners: WinterLight Labs, and CBI Health Group. WinterLight Labs will supply speech-based assessment to support data collection and data analysis. Patients will be recruited at CBI Health Group clinics, and clinical assessment will be provided by Drs. Regina Jokel and Andrea Iaboni. Research will be conducted at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, and the University of Toronto.

Our primary objective is to validate the computational speech-based assessment techniques relative to current gold standard assessments. This will involve modern machine learning that is more incisive than the current state-of-the-art. This will be accomplished within two elicitation platforms: a traditional web-based interface, and a phone-based interface. Optimizing the latter is crucial in order to establish the feasibility of using this platform across as wide a population as possible.

In the short term, this project will 1) validate current automatic cognitive assessments, 2) create a new industrial collaboration between a large healthcare network and a local technology startup in Canada, and 3) further our understanding of cognitive function in different patient populations among older Canadians.

Project Leads
  • Frank Rudzicz, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto
WP 6.6-CAT – Big Data Analysis Algorithm for the Analysis of Lifestyle Factors on the Aging Process

The number of older adults (age 65+) is increasing rapidly in Canada. In order to preserve health and minimize strain on limited healthcare resources, it is important to mobilize knowledge and efficiently allocate resources to allow older adults to proactively maintain their own health. A key limitation to this is that older adults often do not know what type of activities can best support their health, nor the amount of time they should engage in them. In order to reduce these barriers, we propose a Big Data analysis to identify the lifestyle factors most strongly associated with good health. These factors will be simplified and combined into a single Aging Health Score (AHS) that older adults can use to understand and improve their own health. This AHS will be developed in close partnership with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver to ensure that it is both ecologically valid and easily measured from end-users. We will then work with the local YMCA to identify ways to improve the AHS in its older adult members. To do this, we will use data analytics to identify ways in which the YMCA can efficiently deliver impactful programs and services that are targeted to its members. The successful completion of this project will allow for larger adoption by the YMCA at the provincial and national levels, and will provide researchers with a flexible analysis pipeline that can be used to make informed, data-driven decisions about healthcare delivery for older adults.

Project Leads
  • Martin Ester, Simon Fraser University
WP 6.7-CAT – Brain Fitness APP for Aging with a Healthy Brain and Detecting Cognitive Declines

Memory and cognitive declines are associated with normal brain aging but are also precursors to dementia, in particular the so-called pandemic of the century, Alzheimer’s disease. While currently there is no cure or “vaccine” against dementia, there are hopes to delay the onset of the disease by living a brain-healthy lifestyle. The proposed research offers a novel approach to prevent dementia and age-related cognitive disorders.

We propose to create a brain fitness APP for the aging population. The proposed APP is based on the premise of brain plasticity, and targets the brain functions that are declining with normal aging and dementia. In a pilot study, we showed very positive effects of our custom designed brain exercises to strengthen left-right side brain connectivity in older adults when used regularly. Leveraging our previous design, we propose to develop an end-user product with additional features and enhanced user interface and user experience that will allow it to be used for neuro-cognitive rehabilitation by an individual without supervision.

The proposed APP will be tested on a large population with statistical rigor. We will analyze the logged performance of the participants, and assess their cognitive state with an independent test compared to a matched control group before and after the trial. The APP will be commercialized by our industrial partner to reach older adults nationally and internationally.

We anticipate the frequent use of the proposed APP will help to maintain a healthy brain as well as detecting the onset of cognitive decline. In addition, its frequent use will slow and even reverse the progression of the cognition decline in individuals with mild cognitive impairment or dementia. The APP will have many different levels of difficulty so that it can be applied to a wide age range and conditions.

Project Leads
  • Zahra Moussavi, University of Manitoba
WP 6.8-SIP A1 – Product adaptation and verification of a technology to monitor cognition in older adults

Problem: According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 600,000 Canadians have some form of dementia, costing more than $10.4 billion annually. In 15 years, this number will climb to 937,000. Early diagnosis and ongoing validation of treatments with respect to cognitive impairment is critical to promote healthy aging amongst this population. Thus, there is increasing demand for rapid, user-friendly technologies to identify early decline in brain function. Yet, there are currently no cost-effective ways to monitor the physiological impacts of treatments for cognitive decline. Research suggests evoked potentials using electroencephalography (EEG), may provide such a measure. However, current state-of-the-art requires numerous 'leads' and extensive clinical training. Standard EEG testing puts strain on the cognitivelyimpaired, who have trouble sitting still for typical 1-hour examination periods: 25 minutes of EEG cap set-up and multiple paradigms each taking some 10 minutes. 

Purpose: We will validate the use of a low-cost, 'rapid output' EEG platform for the diagnosis and assessment of cognitive impairment. NeuroCatchTM is a clinician-friendly software tool, translating established brain waves into a clinicallyaccessible, understandable framework. NeuroCatchTM outperforms existing EEG tools by extracting critical brain data in about 5 minutes. NeuroCatchTM has been tested amongst people with brain injuries and concussions. Given that the cognitively-impaired have similar challenges, reworking the product for this population is a logical next step.

Impact: We will verify NeuroCatch's capacity to assess functional brain status amongst people with cognitive impairment, establishing a new product for healthy aging. Funding will support minor design changes, field-testing and deliver a validated prototype. Led by trainees, this project delivers a cheaper accessible tool for clinicians, saves healthcare costs, improves diagnosis and treatment monitoring and reaches the global cognition market, ultimately improving the lives of aging adults in Canada and internationally.

Project Leads
  • Frank Knoefel, Bruyere Research Institute

3) 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

While technological innovation offers tremendous new opportunities, there are challenges related to policy, regulation and decision-making in the care of older persons. It is also important to understand how different sectors and stakeholders can work together to develop innovative solutions. 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. POLICY-TECH will deliver in-depth information that will be crucial for AGE-WELL partners as they attempt to bring new technologies and tools to the market. The research will also drive new healthcare policies.

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

This project examines 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 an evaluation of the questions they raise. 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 requires strong partnerships and linkages among researchers, policymakers, 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 explores 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, policymakers, 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. Fall risk estimation will be targeted as a pilot application, but other suitable applications will also be pursued. 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

It is commonly cited that 3 out of 5 persons with dementia will wander yet the context of this statistic is unclear. It is unknown if the statistic refers to first time or repeated wandering incidents, and if it is associated with a person getting lost. Caregivers' experiences of a missing loved one can be devastating. Most U.S. states fund Silver Alert programs that broadcast information about vulnerable older adults who wander and get lost. Despite substantial public funding, these programs have challenges and there is little empirical evidence to support the success rates of the Silver Alert programs. In Canada, Vancouver has a citizen-funded Silver Alert program, and Manitoba is introducing a private members bill for a provincially-funded Silver Alert program. The literature supports community engagement in the search and rescue of lost older adults, however, publically-funded silver alert programs are associated with jurisdictional issues and alert fatigue. A Silver Alert program that engages communities even when a lost person crosses provincial boundaries, and prevents alert fatigue is needed. Such a program would also respect users' rights to self-determination and privacy.

Project Leads
  • Lili Liu, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • Cathy Conway, Alzheimer Society of Ontario
  • Alex Mihailidis, Toronto Rehab Institute, University Health Network
WP 7.5-SIP A1 C-ASAP – Community Area Silver Alert Program
Project Leads
  • Lili Liu, University of Alberta
Affiliated Researchers
  • Bob Alosio, Independent (industry representative)
  • Ron Beleno, Independent
Workpackage WP8 ETHICS-TECH – Ethical, Cultural, and Social Aspects of Technology

The use of new advanced technologies in the care and support of older adults poses significant social and ethical questions, particularly in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence and sensors that collect potentially sensitive data. ETHICS-TECH is developing advice and methodology to assist researchers and policymakers who are exploring aging, disability and technology. The research also investigates ethical, privacy, and security factors that are most likely to contribute to disparities in the usage of emerging technologies.


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 investigates 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 U.K. 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. The 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 looks at how assistive technologies are accessed by Canadians. The research team will identify funding and services gaps, and explore ethical, social, and policy issues, including data privacy and confidentiality. They will also work with policymakers, the users of technology, researchers and others 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 communication 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

Our aim is to improve the practices of AGE-WELL members when developing technologies so that they become international leaders in ethical development and commercialization of technologies for the elderly with cognitive impairments. Persons with cognitive impairments constitute about a quarter of the aging population. They have trouble remembering, learning, concentrating or making decisions affecting everyday life. They benefit from the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) that are known as cognitive assistive technologies, because of the support they provide to independent living. However, the elderly with cognitive impairments are among the most vulnerable to privacy breaches and their use of technology raises many ethical concerns. For example, many of these individuals misunderstand who has access to the information being recorded by ICT. Currently, safety and monitoring of these individuals supersede privacy considerations. Furthermore, technology developers often lack awareness of the privacy and security regulations, and struggle with applying best practices within a sustainable business plan. We propose an Implementation of Change process, which is a knowledge mobilization process leading to improved professional practices. It is a seven-step process and this grant will fund the first two steps. We will conduct an analysis of AGE-WELL members’ security and privacy practices, and identify areas of improvements and targets for change. This will inform the next steps of the process, and lead to increased awareness of privacy and security regulations and best practices when developing ICT for persons with cognitive impairments. The team includes the AGE-WELL CC1 leads who will use the proposed project as a pilot testing of knowledge mobilization strategies among the network members. This project and the subsequent steps of the model will lead to improved practices among AGE-WELL members and beyond, and will therefore contribute to the creation of technologies that respect the privacy and security of their users.

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

Meet our Workpackage Leads at http://agewell-nce.ca/workpackage-leads