App that may ward-off dementia wins What’s Next Canada
May 1, 2020
TORONTO – After nine months of planning, the second-ever What’s Next Canada conference was set to begin – bringing together experts and thought leaders in aging and brain health to discuss new innovation in seniors care.
But with an outbreak of COVID-19 threatening to cancel it altogether, a team from CABHI (The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation), powered by Baycrest, scrambled over a matter of days to ensure the conference happened. What’s Next Canada became a virtual gathering of minds.
The conference featured a pitch competition consisting of seven innovative healthcare startups competing for the CABHI Innovation Award, and People’s Choice Award.
A panel of seven investment gurus selected the winners based on criteria such as relevance to the present, meaningful impact, and how their solutions improve efficiency and reduce risk. Each participant had three minutes to impress the judges.
The pitch competition was officiated by MSNBC news anchor Richard Lui – a family caregiver to his ailing father with Alzheimer’s. Lui also spoke about his soon-to-be released documentary – Sky Blossom. “It focuses on family caregivers, and what they go through. There are over 50 million family caregivers in North America, and about 10 million are under 18.”
In the end, the CABHI Innovation Award was presented to Audio-Cardio, a digital app designed to protect and maintain hearing health by using sound therapy. Hearing loss is associated with increased risk of dementia. Audio-Cardio helps by stimulating cells in the ear, interpreted as sound. Results from testing have shown a 10 decibel change in the first two-weeks of use, representing a 10 to 12 percent improvement.
The People’s Choice Award was presented to Rendever, a company that helps seniors overcome social isolation and loneliness using virtual reality (VR) and shared experiences. Rendever helps fulfill bucket lists by enabling virtual travel to meaningful places.
The VR app can be networked together so multiple users can all experience riding in an air balloon, being on a Greek island or walking through the streets of their childhood communities. The technology can also measure before and after effects of the experience.
Other participants included:
- CUBIGO, an integrated cloud-based platform for seniors living that improves staff efficiency, and encourages resident engagement and family involvement. Features include digital signage, a 360-degree view of each resident and user-friendly kiosk creating an environment more like resident care, and less like long-term care.
- NeuroCatch, which uses a mesh cap embedded with EEG electrodes. When worn over a client’s head, it captures and translates those signals into a clinical report. NeuroCatch can detect changes in an individual’s cognitive health.
- OptoCeutics attempts to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s by using non-invasive light therapy, targeting individuals already showing signs of cognitive decline. In lab mice, results showed a significant reduction in the level of plaque, and Amyloid load (inflammation).
- Patient Pattern targets complex patients at risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by measuring their frailty risk. The percentage of frailty indicates a person’s risk of cognitive decline.
- Toi Labs features an electronic toilet seat called True loo that monitors human waste to track a person’s health. True loo uses an optical imaging modality, and image sensor to detect changes invisible to the eye.
Henry Mahnke, CEO of Posit Science, a company specializing in community-based dementia prevention programs, discussed ways of curbing the impact of Alzheimer’s in the coming years. It’s estimated the disease will affect over 13 million Canadians by 2050, at a cost of over $1 trillion.
“There’s been no new drug development for Alzheimer’s since 2003,” said Mahnke. “All recent dementia drug trials have failed. So how do we promote a healthy brain?” The answer: diet, brain games and blood pressure.
“A healthy brain starts with a healthy diet,” he said, referring to the Mediterranean diet that helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, leading to reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Stimulating activities can also slow the progression of cognitive decline in healthy adults by three years and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by almost 50 percent.
Maintaining normal blood pressure can help to improve a person’s cognitive function, and lower the risk of dementia. Physical exercise and endurance training can also help to increase cognitive function.
During an innovation panel, participants discussed designing spaces for the treatment of dementia. Bianca Stern, executive director, Health Innovation at CABHI, suggested the creation of special places that connect us with others. “These spaces should foster health and wellbeing, be inclusive, safe, secure and supportive.”
Simon Cheesman, director, Baycrest@Home added, “What is the resident’s home environment like. Does it have nursing carts in the hall way? A good design blends it into the environment or gets it out of the way completely.”
Jane Barratt, secretary general, International Federation on Aging, recommended creating a dementia-friendly environment that’s resilient and full of colours. A place where residents and their families can enjoy being in.