You may not feel the ground shifting beneath your feet, but Canada faces an unstoppable tectonic shift in our demographics.
Statistics Canada projects that by the year 2030 almost one in four of us will be 65 years of age and older. We will also be living longer. Projections indicate that by the year 2063 there will be fully 62,000 Canadians who have reached the age of 100, roughly the equivalent of the current population of Fort McMurray. A small city of centenarians.
As we rapidly evolve into an older society, it is only natural that we yearn to enjoy life to the fullest for as long as we can. Stunning advances in technology offer hope of new horizons in sophisticated aids. If we can build a car that drives itself, then why not a smart wheelchair? If robots can explore distant reaches of the solar system, surely they can also assist an older person who wants to continue living in her home.
It is AGE-WELL’s mandate to probe how technology can help us and to encourage innovation and understanding. The acronym stands for Aging Gracefully across Environments to Ensure Well-Being, Engagement and Long life. It is a brand new national research network, established in early 2015, under the federally funded Networks of Centres of Excellence program.
There are three core questions that inform our work.
1: What are the needs of older adults and caregivers and how could technology be used to meet those needs?
Our explorations will involve older adults and their caregivers at every stage of the process–from concept, through research, development, marketing and commercial distribution. The people who will benefit will be carefully consulted and their input adopted.
2: What technology-based systems and services should be used to enhance the health, well-being of older adults and support independent living?
This is the part that may well make it into news reports. The initial group of research projects that AGE-WELL is funding includes concepts that could revolutionize the care of older Canadians. There are proposals to build robots that will assist in home care, to develop smart wheelchairs that would bring new independence to profoundly disabled people and to create sophisticated sensor systems that will not only monitor health but give early warning signs of deterioration.
3: How can innovation be fostered in the short and long-term to benefit older people, health care providers and Canadian Industry?
We are determined to spur the growth of innovation in technological aids for older Canadians and to bring great ideas from the laboratory into commercial application—building a new industry that can not only create jobs and prosperity but also profoundly benefit society. This revolution also brings new questions for policy makers on ethics, privacy and regulation. AGE-WELL is funding research to help us understand those issues better so that we are ready to adapt.
Although AGE-WELL is only in its infancy, we are growing rapidly. Our network spans 25 universities and research centres across Canada, with more than 80 industry, government and non-profit partners.
As word spreads of this essential work we will welcome more partners to join in this exciting, inspiring investment in our future.
The announcement of 25 core research projects is a milestone. They will share $5 Million in funding. But there is more.
AGE-WELL is reaching out to emerging researchers with the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Awards in Technology and Aging. In addition to financial support, recipients will also gain access to invaluable training and mentorship opportunities through the AGE-WELL network.
We are determined to nurture the next generation of researchers, to build a critical mass of brainpower that will make Canada a world leader in the development of technologies that will better the lives of millions.[fbcomments]