Collaboration advances research on healthy aging

June 10, 2014

Simon Fraser University researchers are partnering with one of B.C.’s largest retirement care home companies, Retirement Concepts (RC) in a unique partnership to advance technology solutions that will improve the lives of seniors.

The engineers and scientists are integrating into a spacious new research facility called the RC Innovation Centre for Healthy Aging, based at its Guildford Seniors Village in Surrey.

The facility is the latest example of a tech-embedded lab within Innovation Boulevard, a one-mile area between SFU’s Surrey campus and Surrey Memorial Hospital that is rapidly growing into a health technology hub.

The partnership will allow researchers, together with health providers, residents and their families, to work alongside each other to test, refine and implement leading-edge products and services related to healthy aging.

“The partnership brings leading researchers together with front-line health providers, residents and their families to work alongside each other to test, refine and implement leading-edge products and services related to healthy aging,” says Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, co-chair of Innovation Boulevard and a faculty member in SFU Applied Sciences. “We expect this new partnership will make a positive impact on the quality of life for seniors.”

SFU has numerous related research projects and technology developments underway that will be further developed at the centre, which officially opened June 6 (see below).

“Retirement Concepts is thrilled to have Simon Fraser University as a founding partner in the Innovation Centre for Healthy Aging, as we strive to become an industry leader and ambassador for research and technologies that improve the quality of life for our residents, and seniors across Canada,” says RC Vice-President, Operations Rowena Rizzotti.


SFU research underway at the RC Innovation Centre for Healthy Aging

• Dr. Carolyn Sparrey’s research focuses on preventing injury in retirement home residents. Sparrey, an assistant professor in Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE), has already demonstrated the importance of seat belt use in power wheelchair users to prevent falls resulting from sudden bumps or impacts to the chair;

• Dr. Siamak Arzanpour and Mobisafe Inc., an SFU spin-off company, are developing comprehensive and affordable injury protection for users of mobility assistive devices such as wheelchairs and scooters. Mobisafe employs a specialized air-bag system, which is reusable and light. The team is carrying out experimental tests, simulating wheelchair fall scenarios and gathering data;

• Dr. Carlo Menon's wearable assistive devices are used to rehabilitate patients recovering from strokes and neuromuscular injuries. They include inexpensive exoskeletons to assist in repetitive motion of the wrists and arms to help speed up recovery. Menon's group will further develop and refine affordable medical devices that they can commercialize; 

Maryam Sadeghi, director of SFU's Digital Health Hub and CEO of MetaOptima Technology, will test an adaptation of an existing tele-medicine technology. MetaOptima has developed a computerized wound measurement system for clinicians to assess, document and develop a treatment plan for wound patients remotely in order to save time and resources. They’ll continue to research and develop this technology for seniors in long-term care facilities;

• Dr. Ryan D’Arcy’s portable device that measures brain vital signs is intended to revolutionize treatment in dementia and concussions resulting from falls. The point-of-care enabled device uses brain wave technology called electroencephalography (EEG) for rapid assessment of changes in normal brain function. The partnership will be critical in enabling SFU researchers to further develop new technology and validate it in a real world environment, particularly for dementia monitoring and treatment management;

• Dr. Steve Robinovitch is using networks of digital video cameras to collect and analyze video footage of real-life falls among older adults in common areas. His team hopes to determine why falls occur to develop interventions and engineering approaches to preventing fall-related injuries. These include designing stretchable sensors to allow for real-time feedback of force and displacement (through a wireless interface to a smartphone app) to guide and monitor progress.

• Dr. Andrew Sixsmith, an SFU gerontologist, is exploring how a new type of technology called ambient assistive living can be used to promote active and healthy aging, particularly among people with mild cognitive impairment, who may need additional help and support. Researchers are currently developing the Easy Relational Home Computing Interface to address these issues.

Retirement Concepts is a global leader in the development and deployment of high-quality sustainable health service solutions for aging adults in Canada.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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Dr. Ryan D’Arcy, 778.782.9109;
Jami Brown, 604.230.3662;
Karen Lee, applied sciences communications, 778.782.8923;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017;