Dr. Alex Mihailidis
Scientific Director & CEO, AGE-WELL
AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, is bringing everyone together to accelerate the delivery of technologies that support healthy aging.
When Bea Kraayenhof, a retired Niagara-based nurse, was diagnosed with essential tremor — a neurological disorder that causes involuntary, rhythmic shaking — some of her everyday activities and favourite pastimes, like making handmade greeting cards, suddenly became daunting.
Fortunately, Kraayenhof was introduced to Guided Hands™, an assistive device enabling people with limited hand mobility to write, paint, draw, and access technology through touch-screen devices. “Guided Hands gives you confidence,” says Kraayenhof, and is easy to use. “I could just put my hand in, strap in, and start,” she says. “It’s something that every person who has hand problems should really have.”
Working across the innovation pipeline
Guided Hands™ was invented by Lianna Genovese, who came up with the idea while studying biomedical and mechanical engineering at McMaster University. She then founded her own startup, ImaginAble Solutions, to develop and bring Guided Hands to market. Support from AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, was critical in realizing her goal.
“AGE-WELL connected us with mentors, advisors, and a whole bunch of different resources,” says Genovese. “They also helped us secure funding for manufacturing to introduce Guided Hands™ to individuals and healthcare facilities across North America.”
AGE-WELL is a federally funded pan-Canadian network with a broad mandate to seize the opportunity that technology offers to support older adults and caregivers, and benefit Canada’s economy. Its mission is to develop a community of researchers, older adults, caregivers, partner organizations, and future leaders that accelerates the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in Canadians’ lives.
“We work across the full breadth of the innovation pipeline, from early-stage research to validation and implementation,” says Dr. Alex Mihailidis, AGE-WELL’s Scientific Director and CEO. “With an aging population and the growing everyday pervasiveness of technology, it’s important and essential work.”
Over 170 technologies, services, policies and practices are in development or already having an impact. These include virtual exercise systems, smart home sensors, remote therapies, and medication and daily life management services for people living with dementia. Another active area of research is public policy, and how it can support the growth of new technologies.
Promoting healthy aging
AGE-WELL’s aim is to help older Canadians maintain their independence, health, and quality of life through technologies and services that increase their safety and security, support their independent living, and enhance their social participation. This work takes a village.
“Our work is about bringing everyone together, breaking down silos between research disciplines and sectors, and involving older adults and caregivers,” says Dr. Mihailidis.
AGE-WELL has over 250 researchers at 48 universities and research centres Canada-wide, over 1,200 trainees, and more than 425 industry, government, and non-profit partners. It also supports over 60 Canadian startups that are commercializing AgeTech products, creating jobs and making sales. Approximately 5,000 older adults and caregivers are involved in all aspects of the network’s activities.
And there are exciting opportunities ahead. AGE-WELL is partnering with MEDTEQ+ on an initiative called envisAGE that will advance Canada’s AgeTech ecosystem by helping companies deliver technology solutions to Canadians. envisAGE is supported through the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund.
AGE-WELL also continues to advocate for cutting-edge research that allows Canadian researchers to bring life to their visionary ideas. AGE-WELL and Canadian Frailty Network have teamed up to create a new healthy aging research collaboration. “Continued investment in research is critical in order to feed the innovation pipeline and ensure that Canada’s AgeTech ecosystem will thrive in years ahead,” says Dr. Mihailidis.
“More than ever, technological research and innovation is needed to promote healthy aging, to enable Canadians to age safely wherever they choose, and to transform care and services for older adults.”