Above, from left: Dr. Andrew Sixsmith, scientific co-director, AGE-WELL; Dr. Heather McNeil, senior research associate, SE Health; Shane Saunderson, technology consultant; Abishur Prakash, geopolitical futurist; Dr. Amanda Grenier, professor, McMaster University; and Bridgette Murphy, managing director, AGE-WELL. Dr. Grenier moderated the panel about future technology. Courtesy of AGE-WELL.

AGE-WELL’s 5th annual conference attracted more than 300 researchers, trainees, older adults, caregivers and partners from industry, government and the community who all share a goal: to support healthy aging through the development of technology-based solutions.

Held on Oct. 22-24 in Moncton, the event showcased an extraordinary range of technologies being created by researchers and entrepreneurs supported by AGE-WELL, Canada’s Technology and Aging Network. From smart-home systems to apps that connect people and new ways to monitor cognitive health, dozens of innovations were on display.

Dozens of innovations designed to support healthy aging were on display.
Dozens of innovations designed to support healthy aging were on display.

Scientific talks highlighted how AGE-WELL is pushing the boundaries of research and innovation. Poster presentations described a wide array of real-world solutions designed to meet the needs of an aging population. AGE-WELL teams are working on almost 100 technologies, services, policies and practices to enhance the lives of older adults and caregivers. Some innovations are already making a difference in people’s lives.

In fact, AGE-WELL 2019 included the launch of a new product: FamliNet is a messaging platform that offers seniors with little to no computer experience, or with sensory loss, an easier way to stay in contact with family and friends. Developed with AGE-WELL’s support, the goal is to help preserve meaningful relationships and prevent social isolation, which is all too common among older adults. Read more.

Research is crucial when it comes to finding innovative solutions to help older adults remain in their own homes, said The Honourable Dorothy Shepherd, New Brunswick’s Minister of Social Development, in her opening remarks. Seniors represent 20 per cent of New Brunswick’s population. This will increase to 30 per cent by 2031.

Former Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk gave a captivating speech about health care in deep space. Since real-time assistance by ground-based flight surgeons will be impossible, astronauts will need autonomous and intelligent systems, which could also benefit people on Earth.
Former Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk gave a captivating speech about health care in deep space.

Looking to the future, former Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk spoke about missions being planned to explore the inner solar system – and how novel approaches to “deep space health care” could be adapted to serve people with chronic conditions and those living in remote regions of Canada. For example, onboard clinical decision-support systems, crew-worn sensors and artificial intelligence will be required to support the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses experienced by astronauts.

There was also a panel discussion on what technology will look like in 2050. Think “nanobots in our bloodstreams cleaning our arteries and smart clothing monitoring our vitals” – just some of what awaits, according to Abishur Prakash, a geopolitical futurist and author. Co-panelists were Dr. Heather McNeil, senior research associate at SE Health and Shane Saunderson, a technology consultant and University of Toronto doctoral candidate.

A forum for networking and collaboration. AGE-WELL 2019 was also an opportunity to thank those who have played a role in the tremendous growth and success of AGE-WELL, which is funded through the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence program.

The inaugural AGE-WELL Honorary Fellow Award was presented to Dr. Alan Mackworth, a professor emeritus at University of British Columbia and former chair of AGE-WELL’s International Scientific Advisory Committee. Read more.

“AGE-WELL has been a great success story,” he said in accepting the award. “We’ve broken silos and advanced the field of technology and aging. The future is promising. I look forward to seeing AGE-WELL 2.0 and 3.0 in years to come.”

Generous sponsors of AGE-WELL 2019 were: Bereskin & Parr LLP, Best Buy Canada, Canada’s National Ballet School, Canadian Frailty Network, Fasken, Ontario Brain Institute, HomeEXCEPT, TELUS Health and YouAreUNLTD.