For this month of May we are really excited to be able to feature the Canada – AGE-WELL Ecosystem as our Ecosystem of the Month. Andy Bleaden, Communities Director, says: “AGE-WELL is leading the way in Canada’s AgeTech sector by empowering older adults to live healthy, independent and engaged lives. While playing a very strong convenor role amongst different organisations, they engage and co-design with older adults and caregivers to ensure that products are user-friendly and life-changing.”
What is the approximate stakeholder breakdown of your ecosystem?
AGE-WELL is a federally-funded pan-Canadian network that for almost a decade has served as a catalyst for technological innovation that empowers older adults to live healthy, independent and engaged lives, while driving Canada’s AgeTech sector. Our network brings together 350+ researchers in health sciences, social sciences and humanities, and applied science and engineering at 49 Canadian universities and research centres, 1,200+ trainees, and 425+ industry, government and non-profit partners. We also support 60+ Canadian startups that are commercializing and launching products. Approximately 5,000 older adults and caregivers are involved in all aspects of our activities. This is how we ensure products are practical and will actually be used. From remote therapies to smart home sensors and virtual exercise systems, over 170 technologies, services, policies and practices are in development or already having an impact.
Who are the top 3 champions from your Ecosystem?
There are so many different stakeholders within our ecosystem and so many champions. In fact, there is an ever-growing number of Canadians who are passionate about AgeTech and the opportunity that technology offers to support older adults and caregivers, and benefit Canada’s economy. At AGE-WELL, some of our cherished champions include members of our Older Adult and Caregiver Advisory Committee (OACAC), which reports directly to AGE-WELL’s scientific directors.
What EU funding/collaboration are you involved with, or you would like to be part of?
Collaborating with Europe is natural for Canada. AGE-WELL Scientific Director and CEO Alex Mihailidis served as vice-president of the Active and Assisted Living Association, giving AGE-WELL a voice in the operation of the AAL Joint Programme (JP), a collaborative funding opportunity, including shaping calls for research and helping to influence international policy in the area of technology and aging. The EU-based AAL Programme, which recently completed its 10-year mandate, is widely recognized as a global pioneer in the technology and aging sector.
AGE-WELL researchers, trainees and startup affiliates are collaborating on AgeTech projects with many EU countries. One example is Winterlight Labs which announced in 2022 that it is working with Alzheimer Center Amsterdam of Amsterdam UMC to develop a remote monitoring toolbox for the assessment of patients with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
What are the key priorities and themes for your ecosystem?
Through strategic partnerships, AGE-WELL is linking key pillars of the aging innovation ecosystem: capacity-building (EPIC-AT), research (Healthy Aging Canada) and commercialization (envisAGE). These three inter-connected and interdependent pillars are all necessary areas of activity to achieve Canada’s role as a world leader in aging innovation.
Eight Challenge Areas drive our research and innovation agenda, and overall strategic direction. The Challenge Areas grew out of a comprehensive review of policy priorities across governments in Canada and internationally, relating to seniors. These priorities were validated with research, government, non-profit and industry stakeholders, and with older adults and caregivers. From hundreds of priorities, a shortlist of 18 Challenge Areas was presented at public consultations across Canada and a public survey was conducted. A final set of eight Challenge Areas was announced in 2018.
What is your primary strength as an ecosystem?
It is the convenor role that we play amongst different types of organizations, and the priority we place on meaningfully engaging and co-designing with older adults and caregivers, and working closely with partners from multiple sectors. This ensures that products are user-friendly and life-changing.
The diversity of the AGE-WELL network is a reflection of the complexity of the area we work in. We have organized ourselves to respond to an immense challenge and opportunity, and this involves a broad range of organizations and people all pulling in the same direction to make real-world impact happen. The AGE-WELL community of national and international partners and institutions, researchers, future leaders, innovation hubs and broad-based advisory groups is critical to our shared vision: creating the future of aging in Canada.
The strength of our ecosystem will be represented at the AGE-WELL Annual Conference, being held in October 2023.
Who are your clinical champions, hospitals, clinicians, specialities?
From research hospitals to associations representing health professionals, many clinically-focused organizations are part of AGE-WELL. What stands out is the interdisciplinarity of the people involved. This is evident in our unique training program called EPIC (Early Professionals, Inspired Careers), which includes trainees from a wide range of disciplines and settings.
AGE-WELL is hosted at the KITE Research Institute – University Health Network. A world-leading rehabilitation research institute, KITE is home to the Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratory (CEAL), which has a remarkable set of labs that can recreate real-world environments and test challenges that people face in their everyday lives.
Technology-based solutions are needed to support older adults to age safely wherever they choose, and to transform care across all settings. By bringing together different disciplines and sectors, and actively involving older adults and caregivers, AGE-WELL is accelerating the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, and raising Canada’s profile as a leader in AgeTech.
To learn more about AGE-WELL, visit www.agewell-nce.ca
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