AGE-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 and 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 4 core Crosscutting (CC) themes:
- CC1 – Knowledge Mobilization (K-MOB)
- CC2 – Commercialization and Technology Transfer (TECH-TRANS)
- CC3 – Transdisciplinary Working (T-WORK)
- CC4 – Training and Mentorship (TRAIN)
Core Research Program
What are the needs of older adults and caregivers and how could technology be used to meet those needs?
Harnessing the power of technology to support people to live and age well requires that their needs and preferences are fully understood and that these can be successfully translated into practical solutions. NEEDS-OA will be centred on understanding the needs, preferences, and abilities of older adults related to technology, and developing tools for ensuring that all end-user groups are fully engaged at all stages of the technology development process to capture their respective needs. 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. Ensuring end-user needs are met requires in-depth engagement of all relevant groups throughout the whole process. We also require systematic methods to capture user requirements and represent them in a way that can be used to develop new systems and devices. Outcomes of NEEDS-OA will be an understanding of the needs of older adults and how various social factors influences their needs and decisions. These data and tools will benefit all AGE-WELL projects and partners, and will have significant influence over the overall technology and aging field. Not only will NEEDS-OA help to guide research and development within AGE-WELL, it will provide critical market intelligence for our partners.
WP1 Core Research Projects
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.
WP2 Core Research Projects
What technology-based systems and services should be used to enhance the health, well-being of older adults and support independent living?
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.
WP3 Core Research Projects
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.
WP4 Core Research Projects
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.
WP5 Core Research Projects
WP6 Core Research Projects
How can innovation be fostered in the short and long-term to benefit older people, health care providers and Canadian Industry?
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.
WP7 Core Research Projects
WP8 Core Research Projects
AGE-WELL is also supported by two Core Facilities which provide research expertise and support across the Network:
TRI-UHN is home to the iDAPT (intelligent Design, Adaptation, Participation and Technology) Research Centre, one of the most technologically advanced rehabilitation research centres in the world. iDAPT research facilities include state-of-the-art laboratories including a subterranean motion simulator with removable payloads and additional simulation labs that are used for the development and testing of new technologies. The iDAPT research centre has commercialized several products aimed at maximizing life for people living with the effects of disability, illness and aging.
As an AGE-WELL NCE Core Facility the iDAPT Centre will provide access to its simulation environments to AGE-WELL network investigators to support the development and commercialization of new technologies, use of its unique environments as demonstration sites for potential investors, and educational supports for AGE-WELL investigators to help move their technologies to market.
SFU is home to the IRMACS Centre (Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences) which provides professional research management and technical support for projects both at SFU and for external distributed research projects. IRMACS has extensive experience helping non-traditional computational scientists (social science and humanities) access advanced computational tools for their research, including a range of collaborative technologies.
As an AGE-WELL NCE Core Facility the IRMACS Centre will provide a broad range of research technical support for the AGE-WELL Network. This includes support for network wide technical services and infrastructure, AGE-WELL Network Platform Projects, and technical resources required by individual AGE-WELL Workpackage and Crosscutting projects (e.g. secure storage, advanced computation, collaboration, analytics, and visualization).