Aging 2.0 Global Start-Up Search: 2017 Winner.

In follow up to last month’s post, the winner of the April 7th Global Start Up Search for the Toronto Chapter of Aging 2.0 – a local pitch event that awards an entrepreneur for the best “aging-focused start-up” was a company called Steadiwear. Their pitch was for their lead product, the Steadiglove. Under the category of wearbles, this lightweight, battery-free stabilizing glove helps reduce body tremors, as they say –intelligently.

steadigloveA wonderful Canadian innovation success story in the aging and technology space, but how interesting that this is the second product that addresses body tremor issues, to win an award within a week of each other. At the 2017 Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge pitch day finals on March 30th the first place winner was TAME – which stands for Tremor Acquisition & Minimization. TAME’s tech-based wearable products are a wristband (for tremor diagnosis) and a sleeve (tremor diagnosis and suppression).

Obviously, there is a market need for these products, as evidenced by the statistics quoted in the TAME website Vimeo: over 280 million people around the world suffer from tremors, which states Steadiwear includes people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

Here are some of the other aging and longevity issues that all the global pitch products, from today and tomorrow, aim at solving:

  • adaptable, accessible housing
  • mobility, in home and in transit
  • social isolation and loneliness
  • cognitive impairment, dementia
  • stress of managing caregiving

Long may these pitch events continue, as they continue to push forward technology based innovation in support of the future promise of aging well in a longevity society. At the end of May, Aging 2.0 holds its European Summit in Belgium, with two more such events over the summer in the Americas and Asia-pacific regions, will lead to the big finale in November at the Aging 2.0 Optimize event in San Francisco.

What should be the big hope come true is that eventually these pitch products land on the retail shelf before too long for everyone’s sake, caregivers included. While Aging 2.0 and organizations of its kind have similar goals – “to improve the lives of older adults”, it is not just for those who are older now, but for the older adults of tomorrow. Besides, it is not simply a matter of what age you are, but rather (as my father often said) – it is age in combination with what condition you are in that matters.

 

Mark Venning

Aging 2.0 Global Start-Up Search: Following a Winner.

For a second year now, on Friday April 7th, the Toronto Chapter of Aging 2.0 is holding its Global Start Up Search, a local pitch event that will award an entrepreneur for the best “aging-focused start-up”. This pitch event in the only Canadian city in the Aging 2.0 Network is one link in the chain of a very active, well- connected and funded market for aging and technology. All of their regional pitch events will lead to the big finale in November at the Aging 2.0 Optimize event in San Francisco.

Toronto-Aging 2.0Last year the winner was Winterlight Labs for their development of a tech-based solution that “monitors cognitive health through speech recognition”. Often you wonder how successful some of these tech start-ups are over the long term, and it is good to see how Winterlight, as an example, has matured over the last two years, out of their research work in 2015 on dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, to the contest phase to the funding phase.

Following a winner, as of January 2017, Winterlight has just received a first portion of $500K in seed funding from a life sciences investment company, Novatio Ventures. But the innovation extended family trail doesn’t end there as Winterlight will also be joining Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS in Toronto, another science based innovation centre.

All of this news is another indication of how big this marriage of science and technology is becoming, in what I like to call the emerging aging & longevity market. Of course, all of this innovation and joint venturing in this particular category gets largely lost in the wider sweeping dialogue about Canada’s 2017 “Innovation Economy” drive.

However, that is why I keep following this space in the market and present it in as many ways as possible, including this Planet Longevity blog. We do need to celebrate the start-up winners who prove their own longevity.  This year there are six start-ups featured in the Toronto pitch event.

Let’s see who comes out on top, but after poking around their stories (at least as told in their web narratives), the one story that appealed to me the most is ACEAGE. There are two angles to this tech device: the first that schedules medication and provides a component for caregiver monitoring, and the second that facilitates data collection for clinical trials. Welcome to another aid instrument in the age of telecare and telemedicine.

Can’t hardly wait for this news while another major contest is in its final stage – the Stanford Center on Longevity: Design Challenge. Maybe there is something in the April air to come – Spring Innovation Fever!

 

Mark Venning

Finding an ARTful Later Life.

Often if you are open to it, messages from the world of the arts, arts in any form, that arrive seemingly in a singular way can actually deliver simultaneous swells of self-awareness that converge into one moment without force, but more with unexpected flourish. So it has been for me, these last number of months, an encounter with messages about what I would call an Artful later life.

Perhaps this has been gathering in a subliminal way, triggered last year by a flash memory of seeing and hearing Arthur Rubenstein at 78, play piano on stage at Massey Hall in Toronto. I was 13 at that time and he went on to live until shy of age 96. Only today, I was reminded again of this, reading an Economist Feb.18th article, “Why so many artists do their most interesting work in their final years”. Of course, in some cases artists may not have known if it was their final years – yet; but it turned out to be abruptly so.

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One other recent read, underscores this notion of the Artful later life. Mad Enchantment by Ross King (2016) is the story of Claude Monet in his later life, working on his Grande Décoration, the painting of the waterlily murals for the Orangerie des Tuileries in Paris. Against the historical backdrop and unfolding drama of the early 1900’s, this is a great relating of Monet’s determined creative powers while fighting cataracts to complete his final vision from his mind’s eye.

 

 

At the same time as all this, in one my encounters in the world of the arts since last June as a Board Member for the Oakville Galleries, I have attended a number of our contemporary art exhibitions, which include until March 12, the art work of internationally known 92 year-old Etel Adnan – writer and visual artist. Over twelve of her pieces shown here are from the last three years or so.

Our most interesting work in later life?

These are only a few prominent examples of people who represent the possibilities of an ARTful later life. Today in an age of greater longevity, you can witness more people in their later years, experiencing various aspects of the arts in countless ways – renewing the hidden talent, taking it up for the first time in community centres or teaching it to others. And not by any small measure has it been recognized that engagement in the arts encourages well-being; physiologically and cognitively.

On my doorstep, in a January 2017 announcement, the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research appointed Dr. Kate Dupuis as the Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging. Sheridan College has a strong program in animation, arts and design, which has great synergy with the elder research centre’s projects related to the arts. It’s been a great opportunity for me to connect with and observe Sheridan in this direction over the last few years.

Curious how we say what an artist creates is – their work; and if they do it until they die, we consider it their life’s work or a body of work.  If our life’s work has not been directly in the world of the arts (musician, writer, painter, dancer, graphic designer, animator); or we haven’t been fulfilled through our amateur hours running in parallel to earning a living in the business world; you have to wonder how much of our self-expression is lost or hidden over the journey of our lives.

Is our most interesting work in later life, to be of an ARTful nature?

Postscript

As it happens through our childhood upbringing, my brother and I were gifted by our parents, with an appreciation of the arts – exposed to literature, paintings and music, every day.

My natural early gravitation was to music, though I cannot play an instrument nor read a musical score, it is however always in my head, and I did conduct a forty-piece brass band to an audience of over 200 people when I was 45. Let me see what I can orchestrate next. It might be through writing more than the strokes of a brush or the tap of a musical baton, but who knows what of the simultaneous swells of the ARTful way.

 

Mark Venning

Aging & Longevity – Global Conferences 2017.

A new year brings as usual a fresh roster of international conferences in every professional field, and of course, this is no exception for the subject of aging and longevity. Here is a short list of interesting events for the first half of 2017 with my own summary introductions. What makes these events stand out is the higher-level conversations they stimulate on a wide-ranging scope of social issues.

What continued to strike me as I searched out a number of conference offerings this year, is how much more emphasis there is on drawing attention to business development opportunities in what is more often referred to as a Longevity Economy. At first glance, this may not immediately be reflected in the titles or content of conferences listed here, but if you look at the sponsorships such as in the case of the Aging in America Conference, you will see how this is presented.

Other conferences, profession based or academic in nature more frequently look to partnerships or sponsorships with businesses, which further indicates that there is opportunity across sectors to learn more about the process of aging and meet at the intersection where products and services address the social needs of a longevity society. Taking caution here though, in the preparation of this conference list, to avoid those that are overly commercial.

We will comment and report on any outcomes that stem from these events as they unfold.

American Society on Aging: Aging in America Conference

March 20-24, 2017 – Chicago, USA

Day One leads off with a National Forum on Family Caregiving. The full 48-page program is jam packed with an extensive range of subject matter for professionals working in the field of aging. March 23 presents a daylong “Boomer Business Summit” titled The New Economy: Seizing the Longevity Opportunity

Aging Graz 2017: 9th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology

April 27-30, 2017 – Graz, Austria

aginggraz2017

 

This is a joint conference of the European and North American Network in Aging Studies. Plenary speakers only so far announced but the broad sweep of the aging narrative looks to be engaging.

 

 

AAGE 2017 – Association for Anthropology, Gerontology & the Life Course

June 8-9, 2017 – Oxford England

10th Biennial Conference. What a surprise to see the call for abstracts under the theme “Culture, Commitment & Care across the Life Course”, with reference to Margaret Meade’s 1970 book Culture and Commitment. There is an inter-generational component to this event too.

Asian Conference on Aging & Gerontology: A-Gen 2017

June 8-11, 2017 – Kobe Japan

Produced by the International Academic Forum (iafor) the theme is East Meets West: Innovation and Discovery. Read the covering introduction for a very thoughtful look at the focus on the changing cultural aspects of family and aging. Submissions still welcome.

 

 

Mark Venning

Redirection: Later Life Career Project Completed!

A year in the making, Dr. Suzanne Cook, one of our Planet Longevity thought leaders, has completed her research project – Redirection: Work and Later Life Career Development, funded by the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC). As mentioned in our blog post last September, “Redirection” is Suzanne’s operative word that frames her endeavour to help shift the mind-set of individuals in later life career, as well as those who are in a professional position to help them better articulate their options.

Now you can see here the first step is the public launch in this project – the trailer, for the short documentary titled Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters. On October 22nd, 2016, the first full showing of the documentary will be in Montreal at the 45th annual Canadian Association of Gerontology conference. Further plans to showcase this film through CERIC and other channels will follow.

Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters follows the stories of several men and women over the age of 50, and the challenges they faced in their process of career redirection. The film is but one component of the overall CERIC funded project. The manuscript with the specific research findings from this project will be completed over the next few months, and this should provide great content for further discussion within the career development field and beyond.

Suzanne Cook is a social gerontologist and an Research Associate with York University’s Centre for Aging Research and Education. She has a deep shared interest in this subject area, joining many of us who have been working directly in the field of career development and seen first-hand, how this theme of later life careers has become more prominent over the last decade.

Career professionals work in different venues, from college, university and community based career centres, to private sector career & talent management firms and individual coaching practices with private clients. Ideally, this Redirection film will serve as a great storytelling vehicle, which could be used as part of a tool kit for career professionals in the direct work they do with clients.

One issue for career professionals, who work with clients in their later life stages, is to find the right way to position relevant language around careers. In a modern world of work, even the definition of a “labour market” is somewhat an anachronism; and a term like “older workers” still tends to feed a stigma from an old narrative. The margins have shifted in terms of how long and in what way people will choose to work in the future.

Fresh off the learning from working on this project, Suzanne comments:

“The film reflects the experiences of the current generation of people age 50 and older who need and want to work … it validates their experiences. It will provide insight into issues surrounding later life work and inspire people who are struggling to find later life employment. Some individuals feel stuck regarding employment and the labour market; they are confused about what type of work to explore. These individuals need support and assistance.”
Mark Venning & Suzanne Cook

Aging & A Case for Personal Advocacy – 2

Personal advocacy as we age is a learned life skill. In these times, when our potential for greater longevity is increasing, this learning should not happen only when we are standing at a moment of crisis at a later stage of life. Perhaps we are learning the lesson in real time, if we are the ones operating as advocates for those older than we are. So how do we best become more proactive about our own protection?

To continue from our last post on this subject by Mark Venning, I want to comment as a now-retired Certified Financial Planner (C.F.P.), and a Professional Retirement Planner (R.F.P.) holder, focusing here on protection within the financial component. My concern is about the individual being self-sufficient. As Mark suggested, it is a good idea, as you find your life stage situation changing, to assess your relationship with your financial planner to make sure you are getting the best advice.

In my view, a good financial planner should be educating their clients as to the various options, appropriate to meet their client goals. The planner who offers only one solution needs to think more about what they are suggesting to clients. The options can vary.

Yet it is you, the client, who must keep your financial planner up to date with changes in your life – such as divorce, death of spouse, new grandchild.  This is the only way your planner can come up with possible scenarios for your well-being.

Just as you the individual is ultimately responsible for whatever is reported to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on a tax return, (even if a tax preparer/accountant prepared it); so too, you are ultimately responsible for your own financial realities. No one knows what you need or want better than YOU!

Personal financial advocacy, beyond self-education

The more you are self-educated, the better you will be able to evaluate the worth of the advice your financial planner is giving you. You need to know how your planner is being compensated.  If their method of compensation causes concern as you evaluate your planner’s advice, then you may need to consider finding a planner more compatible with your values. For example, know if your planner is “fee-only”, OR  “fee-based” in which case they may be licensed to sell securities such as mutual funds, life insurance, stocks and bonds, OR they may be “commission only” OR “fee and commission-based”.

Surprisingly, not everyone who works with a financial planner, whether the planner is a CFP or not, understands the differences in compensation methods.  Knowing the differences allows the client to ask important questions.  There is no fiduciary standard for “financial planners” in Canada, just a looser “best interests of the client” requirement.

However, beyond self-education you must keep your designated advocates informed of your relationships with a financial planner and other professionals such as the lawyer who drew up your will and powers of attorney. You need to let your Power of Attorney (POA), know what your general attitudes are toward various financial issues such as investment priorities and prohibitions against investing in certain businesses.

Personal advocacy, carried with trust through a POA

Your POA needs to know who your current financial planner is, so that individual can be consulted in the management of your affairs, should you be unable to speak for yourself. The same is true for Executors of your will. Your POA and Executor should also know about the family dynamics, if they are non-family members for example. There are significant numbers of people that have a non-family POA, let alone the fact that, according to a number of reports, about 50 % or more of adult Canadians do not even have a POA.

Personal advocacy is carried with trust through a POA is a huge responsibility. Here is the Government of Canada link to information on the roles and responsibilities of a Power of Attorney. While the document addresses the “older Canadian”, that is an oversight – this is a life learning of increasing importance for people in their younger years, as they will, some day, be asked to be advocates for their parents as well as for themselves down the road.

 

Marie Howes

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

Making a Business Pitch for Aging. Right here in Toronto!

Who says aging isn’t a business opportunity? Not the folks at Aging 2.0.

PrintOn Tuesday evening May 24th the Toronto Chapter of Aging 2.0 is holding its Global Start Up Search, a local pitch event that will award an entrepreneur in what they call the aging focused business category. Other chapters are holding pitch events in Berlin May 23rd and further in places like Barcelona, Beijing, London, Phoenix and Baltimore. These and others over the summer will lead to the finals in the Aging 2.0 Optimize conference in October 2016.

If you look at some of the emerging businesses in this category, you will see how obviously rooted the product development is in new technologies. For example take Winterlight Labs that has built technology which “in the dead of night…can quickly and accurately detect cognitive impairment from a sample of speech”. Poking around the links to start-up participants in other Aging 2.0 global event sites it becomes abundantly clear that going forward as we age, we are going to be all Apped-up!

Sponsors for this Toronto event include AGEWELL, PointClickCare and Revera – more of an Aging 1.0 company in a hurry. What the connector for all these technology oriented aging focused businesses is that they all pivot off the one core theme of aging and care – home, health, wellness and assisted living devices or services – all positives for opportunities in longevity.

Opportunity knocks.

But what of existing everyday businesses? We are hitting a smarter stride in an era of age aware marketing, though one might argue that some businesses have not reached the intelligence level to adapt their marketing strategies in recognition of undeniable shifts in aging demographics. Some marketing pitches of familiar, traditional product categories have not even reached Aging 1.0 in their efforts.

So many businesses that may not necessarily focus directly on the aging and care theme – are clumsy, stereotyping or patronizing in their attempts to reach a fifty-plus cohort, which itself is really a fifty-year spread. How do you target market better with that in mind? And what do you do if you sell food, clothing, vacations, banking services or deck chairs?

As I’ve recommended countless times, where to start to educate yourself in this endeavour if you are a business, is with the primer in reading, the 2013 – Kim Walker & Dick Stroud’s, Marketing to the Ageing Consumer.

And if you are a small business 1.0 or 2.0 in the Greater Toronto Area, looking to climb out from under the rocks and connect with others in aging focused businesses, join the Sheridan College, Centre for Elder Research Business of Aging Information Exchange Network (going global soon).

My closing Idea. To encourage improvement in age aware marketing excellence, maybe there should be an awards program for the best in Aging 1.0 Reboot companies (as opposed to Start Ups). I’d love to be the ringleader facilitator for that.

 

Mark Venning

 

Re-Think Ageing Conference: Now Fall 2016. Planet Longevity – Ready to go!

Looks like a re-set on the date for the Re-Think Ageing Conference 2016, originally planned for May 4-5.

Planet Longevity group members are still ready and set to go when the new dates are announced for some time in the fall – 2016. Perhaps the cause for the sudden decision to delay was for the simple reason that the subject matter reached such an unexpected, high level of interest, that the location and format needed adjustment to handle the crowd. Let’s hope they start Tweeting updates soon.

Produced in Canada by the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) in partnership with the Ontario Gerontology Association and the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, the conference ties in with the Four Pillars Theme of the National Seniors Strategy (NSS) with some very prominent presenters in break-out sessions over two days.

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All of this is not to be confused with the National Seniors Council (NIC). This federal government initiative hasn’t done any media updates since June of 2015 and hasn’t put out any report or publication since 2014. With all the apparent interest gathering steam in the media, there seems to be a lag in the ability of these organizations to get in front fast enough to meet the demand for not just conversation, but participation.

To be fair, he National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is relatively new, hitting the ground with a media release in February 2016. One of the inaugural founding partners in this new endeavour is the International Federation on Ageing (IFA). This explains one small detail in that an alternate spelling of the word – aging – is applied here. Not that Planet Longevity will alter the spelling. Either way, we all know what we’re discussing.

The further good news about the IFA, is that their new global headquarters is now in Toronto. This can only be good news and good reason to believe that the NIA will develop a stronger voice in Canada. But the one thing to note, while we are still talking spelling and verbiage, is that no one organization or group owns the story of ageing in the 21st century. There is enough room for collaboration on the “re-think”.

In addition, we should pay attention to the fact that while we persist in using the term “seniors”, we run the risk of excluding inter-generational participation on the great “re-think” on ageing. Everyone ages. What is more the inclusive term, as far as we see it, is “longevity”. There is enough concern, multiple shared touch points on all the issues of ageing for all generations to be involved.

In that light, let’s propose for a moment, that what we really need is a National Longevity Strategy. As Mary Ellen Tomlinson said in our March 31 blog post, “longevity is not accidental”. Understanding the issues and improving the conditions for a current older population over 65, (for the sake of an argument as to who is a senior), is of great significance for all people as they age into the future. Conferences and summits in Toronto and around the world therefore, ought not to be exclusive to seniors.

If future generations are going to achieve a healthier, happier longevity, then the conversations we are having today about the choices we are making, on everything from health care to community design, will ensure that a productive and useful longevity is not accidental, but a consciously chosen destiny.

NIA. Bring on the “re-think”!

 

 

Mark Venning

Medicines & Exercise: Partners. But who is leading in this dance?

tangoLongevity is not accidental.  The “well-elderly” know that a lifetime pattern of exercise and healthy living makes for an active and enjoyable life. Coming to exercise and healthy living, later in life, also has enormous benefits.  As is often said about developing new helpful habits –“it’s never too late”, but with exercise, it is important to start.

Dr. Richard Sloan, professor of Behavioural Medicine of Columbia University, NYC says; “exercise helps pretty much everything even if we don’t understand all of it”

A March 14, Canadian Medical Association Journal article titled Prescribing exercise interventions for patients with chronic conditions, states that doctors should prescribe exercise in addition or even instead of pills.  The article goes on to say – “exercise has long been shown to benefit patients with a variety of chronic conditions.  When it comes to reducing the chance of dying from a heart attack, regular workouts are just as effective as pills…the same goes for rehabilitation following stroke, preventing diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and treating heart failure”.

However prescription medicines are vital for managing certain diseases those prescriptions are to be respected. The problem is that our intake of prescription medicines increases with age.  Barbara Farrell of the Bruyère Research Institute in Ottawa on CBC’s The Current, February 7th 2016, shares the figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information as – “two thirds of people over the age of 65 take more than five medicines and about 39 percent of those over 85 take more than ten medications”.

A time for deprescribing?

Some medications are not for a disease control, but are there to manage side effects of prescriptions.  Barbara Farrell goes on to say “more medications get started and guidelines are very good at telling us when to start drugs but they are not very good at telling us when to stop drugs”.

The idea of reducing the number prescribed medicines, (called deprescribing), is now promoted as a process by many experts in the medical field.  You can find guidelines for deprescribing for the elderly at www.open-pharmacyresearch.org

There are three main and very real, disrupting results from over prescribing – confusion, doziness and hallucination. Each one of these, or any in combination, can lead to misdiagnoses of a serious nature, such as dementia and/or a physical impairment. Not to exclude one other contributing factor – falls from all of these mixed-up med issues can be a leading cause of death.

But reducing vital medicines in favour of exercise willie-nillie is not safe.  What is safe is to get advice from both your doctor and your pharmacist. As in a tango, both lead in this dance – each participant respects the energy of the other and they both agree in the end that they are equal. Doctors, as experts in diagnosing – and pharmacists as experts in the chemistry of medicines. They are the dance partners in helping you manage your care.

As my guiding principal always is – a good precaution is never wasted. So – go and sign up for Tango lessons. No RX required.

 

 

Mary Ellen Tomlinson