7 healthy aging technologies to improve quality of life

Canadian researchers are harnessing the power of new technologies to develop innovative and practical solutions for healthy aging. The researchers work closely with industry, governments, health non-profits, older adults and caregivers to test assistive technologies to meet real-world needs.

Here are 7 new tools being developed to enhance quality of life for older adults and caregivers:

1. Look after your back. PostureCoach, a wearable sensor system developed by Toronto Rehabilitation Institute researchers, teaches caregivers how to adjust their posture while helping loved ones carry out their daily needs. It gives caregivers real-time feedback through a vibration or audio signal when they are in a posture that could increase back injury risk.

2. Prevent falls. Simon Fraser University (SFU) researchers are developing a new set of tools, called PRED-Fall, which use wearable sensors and video capture technology to predict, prevent and detect falls among older adults at high risk in long term care homes and hospitals.

3. Strengthen the brain with social games. An SFU researcher has developed digital games and quizzes, such as an online escape room game, that involves two players collaborating to solve the puzzle and escape. The games are designed to enhance social connectedness and encourage lifelong learning among older adults.

4. Steady tremors. Steadiwear, a University of Toronto start-up, developed a specially-designed smart glove that uses vibration-dampening technology to stabilize the hands of people with Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor.

5. Avoid mobility obstacles. Braze Mobility Inc. of Toronto has developed obstacle-detection sensors for wheelchairs that automatically alert the user to obstacles. The sensors provide visual, audio or vibration feedback to help the driver avoid collisions.

6. Monitor health from the couch. Researchers at Toronto’s University Health Network are embedding sensors in a sofa to take an electrocardiogram while the person sits there. Sensors in floor tiles can measure blood pressure as a person walks around their home. Regular monitoring of vital signs could help doctors more meaningfully assess changes in a person’s health during doctors’ visits, say the researchers.

7. Analyze speech to assess brain health. A new tablet-based assessment tool that records short samples of a person’s speech as they describe a picture can detect Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease in under five minutes, according to Winterlight Labs and University of Toronto researchers. The tool uses artificial intelligence to analyze about 400 speech variables. It could be used to monitor cognitive health and changes, and help families plan for appropriate levels of care.