Community collaboration advances research on healthy aging

March 16, 2015

June 2014 (SFU) – Community collaboration advances research on healthy aging

SFU researchers are partnering with one of B.C.’s largest retirement care-home companies, Retirement Concepts (RC), to improve the lives of seniors.

Engineers and scientists are working in a spacious new research facility called the RC Innovation Centre for Healthy Aging, based at RC’s Guildford Seniors Village in Surrey.

“The partnership brings leading researchers together with front-line health providers, residents and their families to work alongside each other to test, refine and implement leading-edge products and services related to healthy aging,” says Ryan D’Arcy, co-chair of Innovation Boulevard and a faculty member in SFU Applied Sciences. “We expect this new partnership will make a positive impact on the quality of life for seniors.”

The centre opened on June 6. It is the latest example of a tech-embedded lab at Innovation Boulevard, a 1.6-kilometer area between SFU’s Surrey campus and Surrey Memorial Hospital that is rapidly growing into a health technology hub.

“Retirement Concepts is thrilled to have Simon Fraser University as a founding partner in the Innovation Centre for Healthy Aging as we strive to become an industry leader and ambassador for research and technologies that improve the quality of life for our residents, and seniors across Canada,” says Rowena Rizzotti, RC’s vice-president, operations.

Research projects underway at the centre:

Carolyn Sparrey’s research focuses on preventing injury to residents in retirement homes. An assistant professor in Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE), Sparrey has already demonstrated that using seatbelts in wheelchairs can prevent falls resulting from sudden bumps or impacts to the chair;

Associate engineering science professor Siamak Arzanpour, of Mobisafe Inc., an SFU spin-off company, has developed a specialized, lightweight and re-usable air-bag system for wheelchairs and scooters. The Mobisafe team is carrying out experimental tests, simulating wheelchair fall scenarios and gathering data;

Carlo Menon’s wearable assistive devices are used to rehabilitate patients recovering from strokes and neuromuscular injuries. These devices include inexpensive exoskeletons that assist in repetitive motion of the wrists and arms to help speed up recovery. Menon’s group will further develop and refine affordable medical devices that they can commercialize;

Maryam Sadeghi, director of SFU’s Digital Health Hub and CEO of MetaOptima Technology, will test an adaptation of an existing tele-medicine technology. MetaOptima has developed a computerized wound-measurement system that remote clinicians can use to assess, document and develop a treatment plan for wound patients, while saving time and resources. MetaOptima will continue to research and develop this technology for seniors in long-term care facilities;

Ryan D’Arcy has developed a portable device that measures brain vital signs. It is intended to revolutionize treatment for dementia and concussions resulting from falls. The point-of-care device uses brain-wave technology called electroencephalography (EEG) to rapidly assess changes in normal brain function.

Steve Robinovitch is using networks of digital video cameras to collect and analyze video footage of real-life falls among older adults in common areas. His team hopes to determine why falls occur, then develop interventions and engineering approaches for preventing fall-related injuries. These include designing stretchable sensors that permit real-time feedback of force and displacement (through a wireless interface to a smartphone app) to guide and monitor progress.

Andrew Sixsmith, an SFU gerontologist, is exploring how a new type of technology called ambient assistive living can promote active and healthy aging, particularly among people with mild cognitive impairment who may need additional help and support. Researchers are currently developing the Easy Relational Home Computing Interface to address these issues.

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