The fourth annual AGE-WELL conference in Vancouver made headlines around the globe. Canadian researchers came together with industry, non-profit and government sectors, and older adults and caregivers, united by a passion to change the future of aging through innovative technologies, services, policies and practices. For full coverage including the keynote address from Telus Health’s Dr. Brendan Byrne, visit youareunltd.com. Highlights appear below.

Dementia-Friendly Digital Reading Platform Wins National Impact Challenge

A new app designed to help people with later-stage dementia to continue reading is the winner of the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge. The app, which features different font sizes and automatic page turning, includes stories written by Canadian authors that touch on themes of interest to older adults and can be personalized to make the reader the main character in the book. “For individuals living with later-stage dementias, reading traditional materials can be challenging,” said Rachel Thompson, CEO and founder of Kitchener, ON-based Marlena Books, which created the app. “The idea behind the app is to give people access to age-appropriate, dignified recreation which, in turn, can improve self-esteem and mood, and promote cognitive stimulation.” The award, which totals $75,000 in prizes, will allow new features, such as graduated reading levels and audio support, to be added to the app. Caregivers can see how much their family member has read, and with whom. Also, they can add notes in an activity log. 

DataDay App Helps People Manage Day-to-Day Tasks

DataDay is a new mobile app that aims to help people with early dementia or mild cognitive impairment to manage daily activities and keep track of how they are doing, providing greater independence. Using audio, text and visual prompts, the technology guides users through their day, reminding them to carry out tasks and activities, such as taking medications, going to appointments, preparing meals and making healthy food choices. The app also helps people track their cognition, mood and physical activity. It captures information as users engage with it, reminding them of what they’ve done and charting any changes in their condition. Canadian dementia researcher Dr. Arlene Astell spent nine years developing DataDay and says: “Most people, once they have a diagnosis, go home and live life with dementia. We want to give people something they can use for personal support and to keep track of how they are doing.” DataDay is made for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. Beta testing is underway; the plan is to make the app widely available through memory clinics after testing is completed in March 2019.

Social Connectedness Researcher Wins Fellowship 

Trent University post-doctoral fellow Dr. Nicole Dalmer is the inaugural winner of the Michael F. Harcourt Policy Fellowship, named for the former premier of British Columbia and founding chair of the AGE-WELL board of directors. The $20,000 fellowship will enable Dr. Dalmer to build on her existing research project (Digital Infrastructures of Health and Aging) in order to stimulate policy co-creation with older adults involved in the study. 

New Innovation Hub 

AGE-WELL is soft-launching a third national innovation hub, this time at Simon Fraser University on its Surrey, BC campus. The Digital Health CIRCLE will focus on digital health technology in the aging sector, including technologies accessible through web or mobile devices. Using dedicated infrastructure and expertise at the local level, hubs are places where industry, community, government, researchers, end users and others can interact and generate new ideas that will benefit older people and caregivers across Canada. There are also hubs in Fredericton and Ottawa. 

Michael Harcourt Named First-Ever Patron of AGE-WELL

Michael Harcourt, well known as a former premier of British Columbia and mayor of Vancouver, is taking on the newly established role of patron of AGE-WELL. Harcourt was the founding chair of AGE-WELL’s board of directors, serving from 2015 until May 2018, when his term ended. Mimi Lowi-Young takes over from Harcourt as the new elected chair of the AGE-WELL board of directors. Lowi-Young was CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Canada from 2012 to 2016 and successfully led the development of a private member’s bill, C-233, to establish a national dementia strategy. The bill received royal assent last year. A member of AGE-WELL’s board since 2015, she brings nearly 40 years’ experience as a senior healthcare leader.