Saturday, May 18, 2024

Five Competitors, Only One Winner: Five Startups Battle Head to Head At AGE-WELL’s National Impact Challenge

Canada has become a global leader on the technology and aging front, encouraging entrepreneurs to seek innovative ways to enable healthy aging. This was showcased at AGE-WELL’s National Impact Challenge: Startup Edition, held recently in Toronto. At the event, five companies pitched their product ideas Dragon’s Den-style before a panel of judges.

Here’s a look at the competitors:

Cosm Medical: PIECE OF MIND
“A custom sports bra for the vagina” is how Derek Sham of Cosm Medical describes hisproduct. While Sham was developing medical devices during his career in urology, his grandmother developed pelvic organ prolapse – a condition that involves the collapse of the pelvic organs resulting in pain which intensifies over time. By the age of 60, one in three adult women will suffer from some form of these pelvic floor disorders, including prolapse, and may involve urinary and fecal incontinence as potential outcomes.

Derek Sham presents his medical prosthetics for women. Photo: Courtesy of AGE-WELL.

Sham found that the approach used for his grandmother was an inexact science with subpar results, and after subsequent surgeries failed, his grandmother had to move into a care home. To help ensure better outcomes, his company has eliminated the guesswork through ultrasound, data science and 3D printing to produce personally customized gynecological prosthetics to allow women to age with dignity. Introducing smarter options is long overdue when you consider that the devices we use today have not changed in 50 years.

Just one piece of correct information can often make all the difference in a care situation, but identifying that key component can be difficult. In the pitch from Jennifer Krul and Dominique Williams, they highlighted a story of a man who touched his caregivers inappropriately. When it came to light that he was a retired cardiologist who thought he was conducting a chest exam, the understanding of the situation changed completely and the right steps were taken to remedy the situation.

That’s the aim of MemorySparx Connect, an app-based tool that gives care providers, family members and care recipients access to shared information about a care recipient’s day, life history and health. It also contains pictures and audio recordings, which can help put care recipients at ease and assist those with dementia. It tries to bring a more informed and personal approach to care, or as Williams stated, “We need to stop asking the question, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ and instead ask, ‘What matters to you?’”

Bin Liu of iMerciv was one of the finalists at the pitch competition. Photo: Courtesy of AGE-WELL.

Bin Liu began his pitch by citing a staggering number: “There are over 300 million people around the world living with vision impairment, and with an aging population, that number is only going to get bigger.” His company, iMerciv, aims to assist them through the BuzzClip – a wearable button that detects obstacles within a proximity of one metre and vibrates to draw awareness to potential hazards. The BuzzClip uses ultrasound to detect obstructions at head level. The device already has commercial distribution in more than 25 countries.

For gardeners who are losing their ability to enjoy their favourite hobby, the results can be heart-wrenching. That is happening as many older Canadians move into accommodations without gardening space, or are finding yard work increasingly difficult. The answer may not be found in the garden, but in the home. Just Vertical makes gardening accessible through an indoor vertical gardening system.

The company’s stylishly designed AEVA model requires minimal labour and integrates a tank-based automated watering system that uses 95 per cent less water than outdoor gardens. The AEVA obviously has applications within a range of settings, but cofounder and CEO Conner Tidd hopes that it will become a fixture in long-term care facilities, where it can improve quality of life.

While working in a long-term care facility, Daniel Bordenave of BISEPwitnessed firsthand how inadequate funding impacted mobility and ambulation training, leading to increased health complications and mortality. Added to this, the transition between wheelchairs and walkers can be confidence-shaking. Bordenave noted: “Fear of falling and falling is an epidemic amongst our seniors.”

His simple idea connects wheelchairs to walkers through 3D-printed parts, allowing the user to safely practice their daily exercises even when only one care provider is present. The results have been spectacular. In a relatively small clinical study of 60 patients, they found that adoption of the ARMM (Ambulation, Retraining and Mobility Mechanism) led to a 24 per cent increase in speed, a 15 per cent increase in distance and a 48 per cent increase in confidence.

This performance and the pitch impressed the judges on hand at the AGE-WELL event, and they awarded BISEP the $15,000 prize. It’s a huge payoff for an invention whose prototype was literally a piece of string.

AGE-WELL, Canada’s Technology and Aging Network, brings together researchers, older adults, caregivers, partner organizations and future leaders to accelerate the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians.

The AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge: Startup Edition was held in three cities across Canada to recognize top startups and support entrepreneurship in the technology and aging sector. Walk-Well Universe won the Montreal regional competition and True Angle Medical Technologies captured the prize in Vancouver.

(L-R) Brianna Croft, Dr. Garth Smith, Dr. Sandra McKay, Ran Manor and Bill Jarvis were the judges in the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge Startup Edition in Toronto. Photo: Courtesy of AGE-WELL.

Finalists were selected by a panel drawn from AGE-WELL’s business development team, Core Facility in Entrepreneurship and Older Adult and Caregiver Advisory Committee.

Sponsors of the competition included: BC Seniors Living Association, CARP, Fasken, Hacking Health, The Impact Centre at the University of Toronto, MEDTEQ, Ontario Brain Institute, TELUS Ventures and YouAreUNLTD.

You Are UNLTD was proud to sponsor this event – a continuation of our commitment to fostering conversations about technology’s positive impact on aging. Read more on the subject in these stories:

• Breaking Down Barriers to Health Care In Canada With Web-Based Tools
Caregivers Find Much-Needed Information and Support Through Huddol
Remote Patient Monitoring Service From Cloud DX Provides Caregivers Peace of Mind


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