Technology & Aging in Place: Emergent. Innovative. Viable.

Reminiscent of the wonderment around web technologies in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when the internet punched its way into the mainstream, and more recently the App revolution and mobile devices, the buzz around (for what I will call) technology development for a longevity society is now, more than a trend, a serious business.

In previous Planet Longevity posts, we have commented on some major program initiatives in this category. Making a Business Pitch for AgingMay 18 for example, featured the Aging 2.0 Global Start-up contest that acknowledged and encouraged entrepreneurs to develop technology products that would serve health, wellness and assisted living needs, with particular application to direct use in home environments.

screen-shot-2016-05-03-at-10-03-06-am-300x168We are gaining momentum it would seem. Almost as if there was something, (as per a Phil Collins song) “in the air tonight”, three events over the next few months focus on this very story Technology & Aging in Place. First up is the announcement last week of the technology based, 4th-Annual Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge, this year themed – Innovating Aging in Place. This contest is open to students around the world with the award winners picked in April 2017.

centre-for-elder-research_stackedRight on my doorstep, on October 27th, I will be attending a Sheridan Centre for Elder Research half-day event – Insights About Technology & Aging in Place with Alex Mihailidis, PhD, Scientific Director at Toronto based AGE-WELL as key-note speaker. His talk is titled, Disrupting the Current Technology & Aging Landscape.  

Another session speaker is John Helliker, Director of Strategic Partnerships and the Screen Industries Research & Training Centre (SIRT) at Sheridan College. His topic is Virtual & Augmented Reality: Opportunities for individual and social change within an aging population. Our future experience of aging in place is only beginning to look interesting, imagine what we’ve got to look forward to!

NIATo cap off this round of events in Toronto is the November 24-25 conference, Re-thinking Ageing 2016 produced by the Ryerson University National Institute on Ageing. One of the workshops I will be attending is a dialogue focused on Age-Friendly Communities & Alternative Living Options, which is one of the core themes that our Planet Longevity panel promotes.  Of course, Aging in Place is one of those options.

On the second day of the conference, a workshop will discuss Accessible Home Design & Technologies to Enable Caregiving. The moderators are Jamie Shipley, Knowledge Transfer Consultant at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Donn Fenn, CEO of Caregiver Omnimedia. (On October 17, this company is also holding a well targeted Home Modification conference in Kortright, Ontario)

There is a great trigger question in the preamble note to this topic, which is worth sharing:

“What strategies can be used to overcome funding, policy and/or program barriers to achieve increased access to the enabling technologies and home modification supports for older adults and their caregivers?”

This is a hard to ignore dialogue and to be sure, some like our moderators here are ahead on the curve of change with it.

If you are looking at the home and health care funding policies of political parties in the next election in your province in Canada, you should be paying more attention. If you are a home designer, builder or realtor, you should be forming alliances with each other and share information on technology trends to advise your clients. If you are a future home seller or buyer, (heck even now), these are the kinds of questions that should be more front of mind over the next decade.

All of this may sound to some, like either a lot of hype ahead of its time, or a – Yikes, what’s this mean to me sitting in my future home, Bungalow Bill? (Again, can’t resist a song title.) But there is no getting around it; this Aging in Place dialogue is an opportunity for doing your clients a favour by enlightening them in their decision making process. This is an opportunity for individual careers and businesses in the emergent fields of design technology and viable going forward in a longevity society.

 

Mark Venning

 

Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto Winner!

How fortuitous that in our last blog post I mentioned Winterlight Labs – as they turned out to be the award winner of the May 24th Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto edition. Winterlight has developed a technology-based solution that “monitors cognitive health through speech recognition”.

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These four young entrepreneur scientists bring their collaborative insights and expertise with a technology focus to help people who suffer, not only from dementia, but also for those who have other mental or cognitive health issues such as depression, stroke or autism.

For the past five years, there has been steady global development/fusion of technology and science connected to aging and longevity and, in the Greater Toronto market, we have our own players to be proud of in this field, which in large part is an untold story in the public domain.

Back in April 2012, three of us on the Planet Longevity team attended a Business of Aging Summit at the MaRS Discovery District and there met the pioneers at U of T’s TAGLab (Technologies for Aging Gracefully). We also heard Joseph Coughlin of MIT”s AgeLab speak. All of this was a real eye opener to the opportunities emerging in the technology space and how it will unfold in a practical way for a future longevity society.

Since then in 2015, AGE-WELL launched as a technology and aging network and of course US based Aging 2.0, which also endorses the Stanford Center on Longevity: Design Challenge, established its Toronto chapter. The field of aging and assistive technology has a growing list of supporters, promoters and collaborators too long to mention here, but the list includes researchers, educators, developers, business and health care networks and government and not-for profit organizations.

What is compelling about this story is that we are only beginning to see the benefits of these technologies in application today. Can you imagine how more ubiquitous this will all be within the next few years? Not to mention how much more there is to ideate and develop over the next decade; not just with assistive technologies but technologies in biology and genetics that will help improve extended lifetimes. One of Google’s 2013 spin off businesses, Calico is a prime example of this type of venture.

So congratulations to Winterlight Labs. What I would like to see is more of a broad public education campaign where the Business of Aging could perhaps be better relatable if it were to be called the Business of Aging & Longevity. So in the short run, Planet Longevity will use its platform to further endorse this Canadian story which further demonstrates that we are an innovation economy in more meaningful ways for the future of a longevity society.

 

Mark Venning