media release

Aging well at the heart of new national innovation hub at SFU’s Surrey campus

January 17, 2019

Marianne Meadahl, SFU Communications & Marketing, 778.782.9017;
Margaret Polanyi, AGE-WELL Communications, 416.597.3422 x7710;
Digital Health Circle to drive development of health technology solutions to support healthy aging

A new AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub will address aging challenges through digital technologies and is being unveiled today at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus. The hub is being launched by the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), Canada’s technology and aging network, and SFU.
The AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub: Digital Health Circle will drive innovation to improve the quality of life for an aging population. It will support the creation of new digital health solutions designed to impact current and future generations of seniors.

The Digital Health Circle will serve as a platform that will bring communities and experts together to tackle age-related challenges, support partnerships to create real-world solutions, develop talent to meet the needs of B.C.’s tech businesses and help older adults in B.C. and across Canada live well. 
“Our aim is to leverage the extensive resources already established in B.C. to spur the development of technologies and services in the digital health sector,” says Andrew Sixsmith, scientific co-director of AGE-WELL and an SFU gerontology professor. “The new ideas that are generated and products created will benefit older people and caregivers right across Canada.”
The mission of the Digital Health Circle is to help older adults in B.C. and across Canada live well with independence, dignity and good health. Using cutting edge, human-centered design methodologies, it will also help B.C. companies, community and academic partners design solutions that fit the needs of their users and stakeholders. 

The Digital Health Circle’s team of experts supports the creation of innovative new digital solutions that have real-life impact on current and future generations. Its goals are to translate knowledge, support partners by empowering communities and train the leadership of tomorrow. 
The new hub will be led by Sylvain Moreno, an associate professor of professional practice at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), who specializes in neuro-technologies related to interactive digital media and brain health solutions.
“The Digital Health Circle’s focus on translating knowledge into new technologies is essential for British Columbia to strengthen our research and  innovation while growing the health technology sector in B.C.," says Moreno. "The hub will coalesce these objectives to deliver real impact and improvement to the aging population in B.C."

The hub’s leadership team includes Carolyn Sparrey, VP Research and Training, and an associate professor in SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering(MSE), and Thecla Schiphorst, VP Design and Community Engagement, and a SIAT professor. 

The hub will break silos through design and user experience by championing interdisciplinary research within the university, uniting engineering, information technology, social sciences, humanities and mechatronics. It will connect multiple stakeholders beyond academia, such as government, health authorities, older adults, community groups, companies, and not-for-profits. 

“By training the leaders of tomorrow to be prepared to address the challenges of healthy aging, we will develop new talent that meets the demands of B.C. technology companies while driving economic growth,” says Sparrey.
Adds Schiphorst: “We need to empower communities through design thinking that includes individuals and groups in the design of rich, diverse experiences and innovative technologies.”  

Joy Johnson, SFU VP Research and International, says: "The goals and objectives expressed by the AGE-WELL Digital Health Circle fit within the university's innovation strategy, SFU Innovates, seeking to enhance the ecosystem for collaboration and innovation among students, faculties, industry professionals and clinicians working in aging and technology. The launch of this facility celebrates the power of collaboration and partnerships."

Western Economic Diversification Canada is providing $3.5 million for the new hub. “In this globally competitive ecosystem, it is vital we have organizations like the Digital Health Circle to foster innovation and unlock the full potential of Canada’s health technology sector,” says Randeep Sarai, Member of Parliament for Surrey Centre, on behalf of the Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada. 

“Not only will the Digital Health Circle create jobs and support Canada’s prosperity, it will also help improve the quality of lives for all Canadians.”

The Digital Health Circle is a joint initiative involving AGE-WELL, SFU and other B.C. post-secondary, government, industry and community stakeholders. In 2017, AGE-WELL national innovation hubs were also opened in Ottawa, focusing on sensor systems to address mobility and memory challenges, and Fredericton, to advance policies and practices in technology and aging.

AGE-WELL is a pan-Canadian network that brings together researchers, older adults, caregivers, partner organizations and future leaders to accelerate the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians. AGE-WELL researchers are producing technologies, services and policies/practices to improve quality of life for older adults and caregivers, and generate social and economic benefits for Canada. AGE-WELL was launched in 2015 through the federally-funded Networks of Centres of Excellence program.

About Simon Fraser University:

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 more than 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 Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 150,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world. 


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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