Aging and brain health innovation investment a game changer for seniors’ health care sector

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For years now, experts have been warning us that Canada is on the cusp of a silver tsunami, one that threatens to overwhelm our hospitals and long-term care homes in the decades to come. And if we are to continue caring for our the way we have done in the past, they may be right.

Our population is aging rapidly, and with that comes increased numbers of those living with dementia and other conditions that make it difficult for older adults to remain independent. In Ontario, where more than 40 per cent of every tax dollar is spent on healthcare, there is a realization that helping seniors age in the setting of their choice is both more economical and more patient-centred—and yet the required supports simply don’t exist.

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In May, it was announced that Baycrest Health Sciences would lead a newly-minted partnership dedicated to developing, validating, commercializing and encouraging adoption of new aging and brain health products and services—innovations that will help seniors maintain their cognitive, emotional and physical well-being for as long as possible, wherever they may live.

Known as Innovation (CC-ABHI), the $123.5 million venture brings together government, healthcare, academic and industry partners to accelerate the development and adoption of technologies and new care practices that can transform the journey of aging for millions of seniors, here in Canada and around the world. The initiative includes investments of $42 million from the federal government, $23.5 million from the Province of Ontario, $25 million from the Baycrest Foundation, and $33 million from 40 industrial, academic and not-for-profit partners.

The investment in CC-ABHI is unprecedented, and represents the single largest investment in aging and brain health in Canadian history. I believe it will be a game changer for our community-based senior care sector, and will give life to a gold mine of innovative ideas we all know exist on the front lines of healthcare. Traditionally, we have looked almost exclusively to acute care research hospitals, academia and industry to develop healthcare related solutions and bring them to market. CC-ABHI, however, will demonstrate that community-based healthcare providers and the senior care industry in particular will play a substantial role in introducing the next generation of care practices, products and services to address the rapid aging of the population.

And the imperative couldn’t be greater. The number of seniors in Canada is expected to double to more than 10 million in the next two decades, and with that comes a doubling of those with dementia. And the cost to our national economy of caring for those with dementia is already $33 billion annually.

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Partners in this new venture include large and small technology firms, software developers, pharma industry leaders, consumer product designers, and social media outlets.  Baycrest and other healthcare organizations that are members of the Seniors Quality Leap Initiative (SQLI) will provide their unique expertise to enable the evaluation, dissemination and adoption of new care practices while designing and beta-testing emerging technologies that support seniors well-being in real world care settings.  Some of the inaugural innovations that will be pursued by the new Centre include an on-line cognitive assessment, consumer-directed cognitive neuro-rehabilitation strategies, facial recognition software, remote wellness monitoring, health coaching software solutions, mobile medication monitoring and tele-dementia care.

Along with our dynamic partners across the full continuum of acute, residential and community based healthcare, we will find better ways to optimally meet the needs of seniors wherever they may be. We believe this is a model that can truly transform seniors’ care in Canada and around the world, and it’s one that we are proud to lead.