AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge Finale!

In Vancouver last week the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge came to a finale with the live pitch portion in this Canada-wide competition. #AWImpact was created to encourage new and unique technology-based solutions to benefit the lives of older Canadians and their caregivers. This was a crowning moment at the 4th annual AGE-WELL conference at the front end of the 47th annual Canadian Association on Gerontology Annual Scientific and Educational Meeting.

Marlena Books a dementia-friendly digital reading platform was the winner and you can read about it in this AGE-WELL news release. What is good about this particular choice for me is that it has practical use that can be immediately accessible to both the end user and their families. My mother had dementia and being as it was more than a decade ago no such product as Marlena Books was available on the market.

The Marlena Books story resonated personally. As I thought about it more, memories deepened. My mother, who was an avid reader, worked in a Toronto bookshop called Tyrrell’s at the corner of Yonge and Bloor, when in her mid-20s she met my father. He was a young police officer who strolled in one day to order a book …and well the rest is history. The bookshop has disappeared into the mists of time, but it had its effect, as my brother and I are both big readers.

As for the Marlena digital books themselves all are written by Canadian authors (score another point). Perhaps my mother would have enjoyed them, as there is a highly artistic element in addition to the fact that themes “can be personalized, so that the reader becomes the main character in the book.” That alone for me is a very creative piece that deserves special merit. Continued success to Marlena Books!

Looks like intersection of technology + aging has more busy traffic ahead!

Also announced at the AGE-WELL conference – a new mobile app now being further developed for people with early dementia or mild cognitive impairment designed to help manage their day-to-day life,

“using audio, text or visual prompts, it reminds people to carry out tasks and activities such as taking medications, going to appointments, preparing meals as well as making healthy food choices.”

With a roll out in early 2019, DataDay has been in research for nine years by a Dr. Arlene Astell, supported by research from AGE-WELL with continued funding now coming from the Centre for Aging & Brain Health (CABHI).

With all these great research projects and investments in this technology and aging market, my repeated suggestion is – let’s really keep track over the next few years, of how many products are actually adopted into the mainstream of our daily lives and become affordable well-known name brands in the consumer market.

To help begin to understand this challenge here is a worthwhile 2017 report from the Oxford Academic Journal – Aging and Technology: Taking the Research into the Real World. In this article, AGE-WELL focuses on this very issue, driving home this point around making it to mainstream market. At one point the article states:

“If new devices, applications, and practices are going to get into the hands of people who will actually benefit from them, then these technologies need to be commercialized or turned into new working practices and services. This is something that is outside the skillset and experience of most academics and researchers…

“…early-stage projects and teams should consider market issues prior to embarking on a program of research. This may help to avoid building in barriers to adoption that will undermine commercial viability later on.”

So let’s keep up the tech+aging watch and – take note – look at the corporate sponsors such as the ones in the National Impact Challenge, (Revera, Sun Life Financial, Bereskin & Parr, CARP, the Impact Centre, and TELUS Ventures.) There is obviously a vested interest these and other companies, in partnerships with other innovation centres, have in this particular research pursuit, and why they recognize opportunity in this just one segment of the larger longevity economy.


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