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Ottawa announces $36.6M for AGE-WELL network

Andrew SixsmithSURREY, B.C. – Minister of State for Seniors Alice Wong announced that the Simon Fraser University co-led AGE-WELL research network, launched in December 2014, will receive $36.6 million over five years as part of the federal government’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program.

AGE-WELL (Aging Gracefully across Environments using Technology to Support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life) was created to advance the health and well-being of older adults and drive aging research, innovation and technology transfer across the country.

It will also increase understanding about the needs and preferences of older adults and their caregivers, and provide solutions while addressing the ethical regulatory and other issues around the acceptance of new technologies.

Andrew Sixsmith (pictured) from SFU and Alex Mihailidis from the University of Toronto are AGE-WELL’s joint scientific directors. Sixsmith is director of SFU’s Gerontology Research Centre and deputy director of the University’s IRMACS (Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences) centre.

Mihailidis is the Barbara G. Stymiest Chair in Rehabilitation Technology at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute University Health Network (TRI-UHN) and the University of Toronto.

AGE-WELL, Canada’s first network focused on technology and aging, will start with a slate of research projects encompassing everything from robotics to smart, wearable sensors and will involve numerous industry, clinical, policy and community partners.

The network’s administrative centre will be based at TRI-UHN, while its two core facilities will be at IRMACS and the iDAPT Centre for Rehabilitation Research at UHN.

“There is much in the way of interdisciplinary research and technology development on aging that is already underway at SFU and beyond, and I have been working for many years to connect the dots,” says Sixsmith, who is also president of the International Society of Gerontechnology.

“AGE-WELL will coalesce all of this knowledge and activity and scale it up under a single framework. It will form a culture of innovation, unleashing the potential of technology so that our baby boomer generation can not only adapt to aging, but truly thrive in later years. And it will equip our young people with flexible, transferable skills to bolster Canada’s future in the technology and aging sector.”

Sixsmith says in addition to driving innovation at the national and global levels there will also be support for local initiatives that connect with the end users who stand to benefit most from the initiative’s activities.

“AGE-WELL is a great example of how research drives innovation for social, technological and economical outcomes,” says SFU VP Research Joy Johnson.

“SFU’s faculty and students are individually making key contributions to technology and aging research, and as an institution we have demonstrated expertise in research leadership and technology transfer.

“By uniting with our colleagues and partners across Canada we can more effectively respond to the needs of older adults for healthy aging solutions while also building national research capacity and strong international partnerships.”

IRMACS is uniquely positioned to support AGE-WELL, says the centre’s executive director Felix Breden. “Over the past 10 years, SFU’s home for collaborative interaction has facilitated interdisciplinary research for more than 100 projects focusing on complex social issues.

“We are primed and ready to provide the technical infrastructure, expertise and management assistance needed to support AGE-WELL’s projects.”

AGE-WELL will also make use of SFU’s resources at the Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA) to achieve a better understanding of gerontology-related data and draw on SFU’s strengths in related research through its Gerontology Research Centre and Faculty of Health Sciences and Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard.

Sixsmith has more than 20 years of research experience involving the health and quality of life of older people and the development of research in technology and aging. He and Mihailidis co-lead the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging and both are involved in several international initiatives that will coordinate with AGE-WELL. Sixsmith will focus on developing AGE-WELL’s innovation ecosystem.

Other SFU researchers involved in AGE-WELL in a leadership capacity

• Ryan D’Arcy, professor in the Faculty of Applied Sciences, and Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation B.C. Leadership Chair in Multimodal Technology for Healthcare Innovations. As head of Health Sciences Innovation at Fraser Health’s Surrey Memorial Hospital, D’Arcy is working with the City of Surrey to drive the rapid development of Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard to help make the province a global leader in healthcare technology innovation.

• Uwe Glässer, professor in the School of Computing Science and associate dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences. Glässer uses computational logic and discrete mathematics for analyzing, modeling and reasoning of systems in a wide range of applications. His recent work focuses on complex social systems, such as intelligent environments for older adults.

• Veselin Jungic, adjunct professor and associate chair in the Department of Mathematics and deputy director of the IRMACS Centre. Jungic trains HQPs (highly qualified personnel) and provides support to research projects hosted by IRMACS. He also showcases research from within and outside the centre and SFU and oversees the planning, organizing and coordinating of seminars and research-related conferences organized and hosted by IRMACS.

• David Kaufman, professor, Faculty of Education. Kaufman’s research integrates gerontology and gaming to investigate how digital games can enhance the cognitive, social and physical lives of older adults.

• Scott Lear, Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research and professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Lear’s research interests include the use of low-cost technology for the prevention and management of chronic disease. He is the principal investigator of the B.C. Alliance on Telehealth Policy and Research, a team of researchers and decision-makers working to implement technology-supported chronic-disease management solutions.

• Steven Robinovitch, Canada Research Chair in Injury Prevention and Mobility Biomechanics and professor in the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology and School of Engineering Science. Robinovitch heads SFU’s Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors (TIPS) program, a university-community partnership to develop interventions and engineering approaches to prevent fall-related injuries in older adults.

• Judith Sixsmith, professor, School of Public Policy. Sixsmith has directed several research projects on issues of aging and technology, healthy aging, prevention and social inclusion.

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