AGE-WELL: Leading Canada’s Future of Age Tech

If there is one organization that leads (or, arguably owns) the narrative on the future of technology and aging in Canada, it is AGE-WELL. As it entered its second phase of funding in 2020 as one of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE), I continued to follow its success story which started in 2015. And throughout the long haul of the pandemic era we are in, AGE-WELL has actually picked up momentum as it leans in to the dialogue on the evolution of Age Tech.

When it comes to research and education, AGE-WELL has addressed this in as an inclusive, easy to grasp way, as they say – “supporting older adults and caregivers in Canada and achieving social and economic impact.”

And this year Canadians had a further opportunity to participate and learn more in the education process, first in April and May, through a series of cross-country online Road Shows and simultaneously to enter their National Survey, the purpose of which was to “capture insights on the Future of Technology and Aging (Age Tech) in Canada and beyond.” The survey closes on June 30th.

Now if there is one flaw in this process, it is that there are still discrepant experiences of those Canadians of any age, who may only have a passing level of knowledge or skill in digital, let alone awareness that there’s any work being done to develop various technology solutions to help older adults. And for anyone looking at their education and career options or, those career advisors not in the know, there is so much opportunity for marketing this diverse, emerging field of Age Tech.

Yet, at the very least, what I can do is continue to broadcast the AGE-WELL story. So to make good on that point I will share a few bits from what I heard on their June 16th EPIC Conference session – Imagining the Future of Age Tech.

It would appear that 2021 might just be a positive watershed year for Age Tech globally as it too could be for Canada, which for the most part in professional circles of technology and aging, we are gaining recognition as a leader in this field. In addition, based on research and consultations from AGE-WELL and others, it is becoming clear, that as you include older adults in the design process, they are not as technophobic as is often suggested.

Andrew Sixsmith, Professor, Gerontology at Simon Fraser University, and one on the leadership team at AGE-WELL shared some examples of international programs which are funding research and innovation, such as the European Commission’s Horizon Europe with the 2021-2027 program for a green, healthy, digital and inclusive Europe”.

At the same time Sixsmith referenced all this Age Tech activity arrives in tandem with the Decade of Healthy Ageing. Paraphrasing Sixsmith, he went on to remark that now and in the future we must look at the “digital determinants of health” and that we will look to this in “our mixed economy of care”.

For me, what stood out on this particular EPIC Conference session was hearing from Lynne Corner from the National Innovation Centre for Ageing in the UK. Corner made two comments that registered more poignantly now as we are, globally, still living with the pandemic. One was that “health is the new wealth across the life course”, and the other was that we must accept “technology as a human right.” You can also listen to the June 16th EPIC session here for the full discussion.

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