Life on MaRS & The Intersection of Innovation & Aging.

For those of you who ever wondered if there is life on other planets, well you don’t have to wonder or wander that far to find that there really is kind of an innovation on life on Marson earth  – in the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto that is. Simply walking about the interior architectural space is delightful, uplifting even.

Yesterday I went to MaRS, not for the first time, attending the day one HealthKick session of the 6th Annual Health Innovation WeekThe Intersection of Innovation & Aging. Over 200 people filled the auditorium for this event and it became evident as I observed and interacted with people, perhaps the speakers and panelists somewhat reflected the range of interested parties in the audience.

There were healthcare and pharma professionals, consultants, researchers, technology designers, entrepreneurs, investors and self-declared innovators – those who were looking for how to make a breakthrough – and those who had. I even spoke with a pharmacist at afternoon break time about how he has seen differences between urban and rural access to healthcare delivery for older adults.

However, one question that the pharmacist asked me at first is what I will answer with two items briefly here. What is the one thing in particular that stood out for you today? As usual with me, it is finding the interconnectivity between subjects or ideas that forms my answer, and that usually gets a better conversation going.

Nuances of Aging Trends

Right from the opening speaker, Vijay Wadhawan – VP Health & Wellness, Environics, we learn that it is more evident than ever, that if you are marketing anything; a service, product or policy to an aging demographic of 55-plus (as demarked here), then you have to understand that older adults are not a homogeneous group. Social values, motivations and attitudes, evolve as we age and when developing a service for example, you have to match the shifting expectations on the customer journey based more on values segmentation.

Further in this nuance, in the follow up panel, it was noted by Trish Barbato – SVP, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, Revera, there are two customer journeys for instance in the decision making process around elder care service options – the elder and the elder’s family caregiver. From experience here, expectations and values do not always align.

Technology Only Augments Aging

From the discussion panel on Aging in Place to the interactive panel, 8 Rules for Dating my Healthcare System the most frequent message to both older adult users of technology solutions and to the technology innovators with their pitch presentations – it’s not the technology itself that matters, it’s the focus on the problem worth solving and for whom.

Mary Lou Ackerman – VP of Innovation, SE Health, reminded us that technology solutions come and go as situations change, and/or need to be adapted to constantly as an older adult moves from aging in place to a long-term care situation. “Let technology augment where it needs to”, she said. As Geoff Fernie – Senior Scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Centre astutely advised, “You’ve got to love the client more than the technology… fall in love with the problem, not the technology.”

Ackerman & Fernie were talking about solutions within the context of aging in place, and backing up these sentiments in the discussion about technology innovators “dating the healthcare system” it was Patrick Clifford – Director of Research & Innovation, Southlake Regional Health Centre who pointedly said it best. If you are pitching a solution, “The issue isn’t about the technology, it’s about demonstrating how it helps or supports us deliver care – and what is the business model and who’s going to pay for it?”

So as I give more time to ponder this value packed day at MarS, and write a second post, it would seem to me that within these two subject lines alone the interconnectivity is between values and value. Does not one drive the other?


Coincidentally in a recent news update, there was confirmation that there really is a place to find life on Mars on Earth. Yes on Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada, the Mars Institute and the SETI Institute announced a new partnership between Google and the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) to advance Mars exploration.

You can now get new Street View imagery; a Google Earth guided tour highlighting the Mars-like geology of Devon Island; and a documentary short captured at HMP on the Google Pixel 3, all of which you can see in this Daily Hive – Mars on Earth report.

Exciting times for innovation on all frontiers, but if you are ever want to find me exploring extraterrestrial evidence or out of body ideas, it will likely be in Toronto at MaRS.


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