A new AGE-WELL National Innovation Hub hosted at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) has opened to support aging in rural and northern communities by increasing access to the latest innovations in technology and collaborating on new research projects.
A partnership between UNBC, AGE-WELL and Northern Health, The Centre for Technology Adoption for Aging in the North (CTAAN) aims to bridge the gap between technology developers and those aging in northern and rural communities.
“We are proud to be part of this important new initiative, which brings stakeholders together to ensure that older Canadians and caregivers in rural and northern communities benefit from emerging technologies that support healthy aging,” Dr. Andrew Sixsmith, scientific director of the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence, said in a news release from UNBC.
Through partnerships with technology developers, researchers, policy makers, health care providers, community groups and older adults themselves, CTAAN tests, pilots, implements and promotes new and existing technology solutions to help older adults live independently.
CTAAN builds on the healthy aging research of social gerontologist Dr. Shannon Freeman, an associate professor of nursing at UNBC and CTAAN founding academic director.
“Innovative, new and creative technology-driven solutions are being developed to support provision of timely, high-quality and appropriate care, and to improve upstream approaches to care, to better support those aging in rural and northern B.C.,” said Freeman. “At CTAAN, we recognize the opportunity to pair existing services with new and innovative strategies involving technology to provide more accessible and comprehensive supports to older adults and their caregivers.”
Dr. Richard McAloney, an adjunct professor in the school of business at UNBC, is the centre’s founding director.
“Technology should enable, empower and engage those who use it to support healthy aging,” he said. “CTAAN will be the bridge to attract and validate technologies, providing the evidence to ensure it is adopted and sustainably scaled through our region. We are looking forward to working together with all our community stakeholders using technology to usher in aging the northern way.”
Implementing new and existing technological solutions and ensuring equitable access in rural and remote communities will not only improve quality of life for older adults, but it can also lessen the load for long-term care and acute-care facilities across northern B.C., according to the news release.
“As the population in northern B.C. continues to age over the next 15-20 years, the health system needs to think differently in how to support older persons to age with grace and remain independent as long as possible,” said Aaron Bond, Northern Health executive lead, Elder Care Program. “CTAAN provides a partnered approach to explore innovations in technology development, and we are very fortunate to have strong partnerships with UNBC and AGE-WELL. We look forward to what is possible in adapting, piloting and implementing innovations in technology to support older adults in rural and Northern communities.”
In addition, CTAAN will support research activities at UNBC and provide unique student training and experiential learning opportunities.
“The Centre for Technology Adoption for Aging in the North aligns with and supports UNBC’s vision to transform lives and communities in northern B.C. and beyond,” said UNBC interim president Dr. Geoff Payne. “As the host institution, CTAAN will allow UNBC to deepen our ties with AGE-WELL and Northern Health and forge new research partnerships.”
CTAAN launched Wednesday, Nov. 25.
“Through a streamlined process, CTAAN breaks the barriers to the adoption of technologies that can help older residents of northern and rural communities to age happily and healthily in those communities,” according to the CTAAN website. “This process provides technology developers and companies with evidence that helps them plan for bringing their products and services to our region.”
CTAAN’s four core aims are to support older adults to continue to live in rural and northern communities with dignity and high quality of life; to build capacity for technology development, local talent development and recruitment of businesses to the region; to develop and implement proactive, targeted approaches for technology to enhance health services delivery and reduce health infrastructure and acute care costs; and to measure and validate the benefits to the region.
For more information, visit ctaan.ca.