Aerospace technology meets rehabilitation research

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There is nothing else like it in the world. A six-degree-of-freedom motion simulator located four storeys below ground that can recreate different environments, like winter blizzards and bustling streets, and outperform most flight training simulators. That is just one feature of what is the most technologically-advanced rehabilitation research centre in the world. And it is here in Canada.

The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab), part of the University Health Network (UHN), recently opened its $36-million-dollar research centre – iDAPT (Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology). Located in the heart of Canada’s ‘Discovery District’ in downtown Toronto, iDAPT is approximately 65,000 square feet of new and renovated space.

Led by Dr. Geoff Fernie, Institute Director, Toronto Rehab/UHN, iDAPT laboratories will help revolutionize rehabilitation science.  “iDAPT research will produce new knowledge, more practical technologies and innovative treatments that will reduce accidents and illness and help people overcome disability. We can help people live healthier, more active and more independent lives,” says Dr. Fernie. “This research will push the boundaries of rehabilitation science in Canada and beyond.”

Scientists and research students from a broad range of engineering and clinical disciplines all work collaboratively to develop solutions that will help restore independence and quality of life for people recovering from injury or illness. Falls are a major cause of injury and disability for older adults so researchers at iDAPT are studying how people walk up and down stairs, and how they walk on icy sidewalks in order to determine how to prevent falls.

“We are redefining rehabilitation. It is now about preventing you from having an illness, accident or injury in the first place,” says Dr. Fernie. “And if you get sick or have an injury, rehabilitation is what will get you back home, back to work and back to the activities you enjoy doing.”

The number of Canadians over the age of 65 will double in the next two decades. Globally we are facing a health care challenge: how to care for a rapidly aging population when long-term care is not an option. “Our research includes a big focus on finding ways to help family members care for each other and remain in their own homes as they age,” adds Dr. Fernie.

“Much of the work Toronto Rehab is doing here will help people remain in their homes longer. The HomeLab, for instance, is a living environment where new assistive devices and adaptive technologies are being developed to help people stay safely in their home for longer,” explains Nancy Lefebre, Senior Vice President, Knowledge and Practice, Saint Elizabeth. “Supporting people to stay in their homes will reduce the burden on the health care system.”

“I know iDAPT research will have a remarkable impact on preventing injuries and disabilities. I’m confident that this new centre will lead to advancements that will make a real difference for patients and their families. I’m excited to see how this research will enable Ontarians to thrive in their homes longer and live healthier lives,” says Minister Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

iDAPT’s integrated network of 13 different state-of-the-art laboratories, workshops and other research spaces, are housed at the hospital’s University Centre (550 University Ave., Toronto) and Lyndhurst Centre (520 Sutherland Dr., Toronto) and in the Rehabilitation Sciences building at the University of Toronto (500 University Ave., Toronto).

The iDAPT Centre is part of Toronto Rehab’s multi-million dollar capital redevelopment of its University Ave. site. This project, funded by the Ontario government and Toronto Rehab Foundation involved the construction of a new patient care tower, with expanded inpatient and outpatient areas and renovations to the existing facility – the recent integration with University Health Network will mean that additional rehabilitation beds will be opened within the University Centre. Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care supported this renovation and expansion and the hospital remains publicly owned, publicly controlled and publicly accountable.

iDAPT is funded by the federal government through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and by the Province of Ontario through the Ontario Innovation Trust and the Ministry of Research and Innovation. Local, national and international private sector partnerships provided in-kind contributions. The growing research program at Toronto Rehab is supported by the Toronto Rehab Foundation and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.