media release

SFU co-leads new national network to help Canadians AGE-WELL

Initiative receives $36.6 million from the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program to advance aging and technology research, innovation

January 19, 2015
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Contact:
Andrew Sixsmith; sixsmith@sfu.ca
Pam Borghardt, IRMACS Centre, 778.782.6989; pam@irmacs.sfu.ca
Marianne Meadahl, University Communications, 778.782.4323; Marianne_Meadahl@sfu.ca; (Prof. Sixsmith is in Toronto for today’s announcement; please call to arrange interviews)

Link to AGE-WELL release: http://at.sfu.ca/kxyZvL
AGE-WELL website: www.agewell-nce.ca

Photo: http://at.sfu.ca/hrMuXM

With federal support announced today by the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), Simon Fraser University will play a leadership role in a new, national network created to advance the health and wellbeing of older adults and help drive aging research, innovation and technology transfer across the country.

The Aging Gracefully across Environments using Technology to Support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life (AGE-WELL) network 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.

AGE-WELL will be co-led by joint scientific directors Andrew Sixsmith, director of SFU’s Gerontology Research Centre and deputy director of the University’s Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences (IRMACS) research institute, and Alex Mihailidis, the Barbara G. Stymiest Chair in Rehabilitation Technology at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute University Health Network (TRI-UHN) and the University of Toronto.

The network, Canada’s first to focus on technology and aging, will start with a slate of research projects that encompass everything from robotics to smart, wearable sensors and will involve numerous industry, clinical, policy and community partners.

AGE-WELL’s administrative centre will be based at TRI-UHN. Its two core facilities will be based at SFU’s IRMACS Centre and at 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,” adds 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 IRMACS Centre 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.

Backgrounder

AGE-WELL joint Scientific Director Andrew Sixsmith, professor and director of SFU’s Gerontology Research Centre and deputy director of the IRMACS Centre, has more than 20 years of research experience in the area of health and quality of life of older people, and in the development of research in technology and aging. He is co-lead with Alex Mihailidis of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, and both are involved in several international initiatives that will coordinate with AGE-WELL. He will focus on developing AGE-WELL’s innovation ecosystem.

Several other researchers from SFU are involved in AGE-WELL in a leadership capacity:

• Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, professor in the Faculty of Applied Sciences, and Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation BC Leadership Chair in Multimodal Technology for Healthcare Innovations. As head of Health Sciences Innovation at Fraser Health’s Surrey Memorial Hospital, Dr. D’Arcy works with the City of Surrey to drive the rapid development of Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard, which will focus B.C.’s technology sector into a global leader of health care innovation.

• Uwe Glässer, professor in the School of Computing Science and associate dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences. Dr. 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, deputy director of the IRMACS Centre. Dr. Jungic trains HQPs and provides support to research projects hosted by the IRMACS Centre, showcases research from within the Centre and SFU as well as externally and oversees the planning, organizing and coordinating of the many seminars and research-related conferences organized and hosted by the Centre.

 

• David Kaufman, professor, Faculty of Education. Dr. 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, professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Dr. 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 (www.BCATPR.ca), 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. Dr. 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.

 

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada's comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia's three largest cities—Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby—SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.

 

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