According to StatsCan, more than nine million Canadians will be over 65 by 2031. Nearly one million of them will have dementia — a disease with a heavy economic impact. As of 2016, the combined health care and out-of-pocket caregiver costs (with many caregivers working more than 100 hours per week) were estimated to be $10 billion per year. By 2031, this figure is expected to increase to $16.6 billion.

Canadians need access to leading innovations so that the aging population can receive the most appropriate care today, and for generations to come.

The Baycrest-led Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) supports innovators with products, services, and treatments for older adults living with dementia. With the generous support of the federal and provincial governments and Baycrest Foundation, CABHI works together with its partners to accelerate the pace with which innovations get from the research stage to being used by older adults and caregivers in their day to day lives.

A leader in aging and brain health innovation, CABHI has developed, tested, and validated more than 195 innovations in its first three years. “End-users who are testing our innovations report both medical and social improvements in their quality of life,” says Dr. Allison Sekuler, CABHI’s Managing Director. “By brokering relationships among companies, providers, and older adults, CABHI helps innovators generate the evidence needed to prove these innovations work in a real-world environment and help get them to market.”

Canada’s talent and assets in the longevity sector are vast, and CABHI’s support of Canadian innovators creates jobs and builds adoption capacity. These efforts help to alleviate increasing pressures on our health care system and help to end hallway health care. “Our work together with our partners and collaborators will help build a stronger future for the aging population in our country and beyond,” says Dr. Sekuler.

Many older adults with dementia or delirium experience high levels of anxiety and aggression which can be distressing for them as well as their caregivers. MindfulGarden is an interactive therapeutic medical device that responds directly to voice and gesture by creating engaging computer-generated imagery that de-escalates disruptive behaviours quickly, helping calm the individual so care can begin sooner — without reliance on drugs and restraints. With CABHI’s support, we are validating MindfulGarden’s impact on reducing costs of care, improving health outcomes, and protecting work environments, in long-term care.

Older adults — especially those with cognitive, medical and mental health challenges taking multiple medications — are at increased risk for adverse drug events. For clinicians prescribing medications to seniors, wait times to consult a specialist can take weeks or even months. As a clinical pharmacologist and geriatrician, I am working to increase access through GeriMedRisk, an interdisciplinary telemedicine-based network to support clinicians in safe prescribing to older adult patients. A recent eight-month clinical trial in four long-term care homes, supported by CABHI, revealed that the service drastically reduced wait times to days. Technology-mediated augmentation of local health care teams with clinical geriatric expertise — the future of aging and brain health innovations looks promising.

About 20 percent of nursing home admissions are linked to medication non-compliance — and this can be especially challenging for older adults with dementia and cognitive health issues. With CABHI’s support, AceAge has developed Karie — a device that makes medication management extremely simple. With CABHI’s support through a trial at two health care organizations, we will be able to clinically demonstrate adherence improvements when using Karie. I’m working with CABHI to measure adherence outcomes using indicators such as reduced ER visits and hospital admissions. By simply following treatment properly, many ailments can be prevented. It’s incredibly exciting.