With a family history of essential tremor, John Kirkconnell finds that the shaking in his hands caused by the condition makes it difficult to carry out daily activities, from writing and shaving to eating and drinking.
“In a coffee shop, it’s hard to pick up a coffee without spilling it. You feel like people are staring at you, thinking, ‘What’s wrong with him?’” says the retired paramedic from Guelph, Ont. Medication brings unwanted side-effects, he notes, while two neurosurgery procedures have produced only temporary results.
Now Kirkconnell is using a new “smart” glove to manage his hand tremors. Invented by a Toronto startup company called Steadiwear Inc. with support from AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, the Steadi-One glove is designed to stabilize the wrist joint to reduce the shaking in people living with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease. “It’s been a real life-changer for me,” he says.
We are harnessing the power of new technologies to provide much-needed solutions and drive innovation in this space. It’s all about supporting seniors and caregivers, while easing pressures on the health-care system and building Canada’s AgingTech sector.”— Bridgette Murphy, managing director and chief operating officer of AGE-WELL
Bridgette Murphy, managing director and chief operating officer of AGE-WELL, says the innovation is among some 100 technologies, services, policies and practices being developed across the pan-Canadian network to help older adults maintain their independence, health and quality of life. From smart-home systems to remote therapies and new ways to connect people, some products are already making a difference in people’s lives.
“We are harnessing the power of new technologies to provide much-needed solutions and drive innovation in this space,” says Murphy. It’s all about supporting seniors and caregivers, while easing pressures on the health-care system and building Canada’s AgingTech sector. AGE-WELL does this by bringing everyone together – researchers, industry, non-profits, government, consumers and others – to accelerate the delivery of technology-based solutions for healthy aging.
These include blind-spot sensor systems for wheelchairs developed by Braze Mobility Inc., an AGE-WELL-supported startup. The products, now on the market, can be added to any wheelchair to increase the user’s awareness, safety and confidence, says Braze co-founder and CEO Dr. Pooja Viswanathan.
There’s a computer-guided personalized exercise system for older adults with chronic conditions, early-to-moderate dementia, mobility and other challenges that can prevent them from taking part in group-exercise classes outside the home. VirtualGym features an on-screen virtual coach and camera to record the user’s movement in 3D. The project is led by Drs. Eleni Stroulia, professor of computing science at the University of Alberta, and Lili Liu, dean of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo.
And the list goes on.
A new survey commissioned by AGE-WELL and conducted by Environics Research shows that more than eight out of 10 Canadians over the age of 65 believe that technological advances can help older adults stay safe, independent and in their own homes longer.
The poll indicates that older adults already confidently use technology, Murphy says. “They believe that technology in the future can play a role in helping them stay independent – and they will pay out of pocket for it.”
Support from AGE-WELL, a federally funded Network of Centres of Excellence, is essential to the development of such products, says Mark Elias, CEO and co-founder of Steadiwear. He got the idea for the Steadi-One glove from his background in civil engineering and wanted to help people with tremors – including his own grandmother. The glove, which uses a combination of vibration-damping and nano-technology to provide resistance to hand tremors, has done well in beta tests, and clinical testing is underway.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.