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In search of a new paradigm

The first CASE Scientific Session of 2019 was held on January 24, co-led by Alex Mihailidis, professor at the University of Toronto, and Steven Schmidt, associate professor and CASE scientific coordinator. The workshop focused on the future of research on technologies for ageing and supportive environments.

Picture of Alex Mihailidis
Alex Mihailidis

Alex Mihailidis is the scientific director of the AGE-WELL Network in Canada. He was invited to Lund and hosted by Steven Schmidt and the Faculty of Medicine this week to consult and provide input into the planning of MoRe-Lab at Forum Medicum, based on his experiences at the world leading iDAPT facility at Toronto Rehab. Forum Medicum is the future medical and health sciences knowledge centre at Lund University that is expected to open by summer 2023.

During CASE Scientific Session, Prof. Mihailidis presented an overview of the research and work being performed at the AGE-Well Networks of Centres of Excellence, funded by the Government of Canada, which focuses on the development of new technologies and services for older adults.

Cultural change
According to Dr. Milhailidis, advances in technology are already affecting the culture of aging. 
“There’s new technology around that has a strong potential to support healthy and active ageing. Take for example, sensors embedded into everyday objects like floor tiles, sofas and chairs that automatically measure heart rate and blood pressure. The real challenge is not in collecting the big data, but in collecting the correct data and understanding and interpreting its meaning,” according to Mihailidis.
Unexpected effects of new tech
AGE-Well research also shows that new technology sometimes has stigmatizing effects, an important aspect that can limit the usability of the new tech. Dr. Milhailidis uses personal emergency response systems as an example of this phenomena.
“The alarm-push buttons has proven to be not that effective, either because the person isn’t wearing it when an emergency arises or perhaps because the wearer is too injured to use it.”

Baby-boomers and new tech
Another important aspect is that the field of knowledge about old age and technology is in constant change. Older adults of today are tech-knowledgeable to an extent not seen before. “They view themselves primarily as consumers and act independently. It’s an important change of attitude that has implications for the health care sector,” says Mihailidis. 

New ways of thinking, new ways of doing
The technological development drive in the digital era is dominated by big corporations like Google and Apple, companies that perform their own research and development for targeted consumer groups. Hence, they do not see the value of collaborating with academic researchers in product development because the pace of development is too slow due to traditional academic methodologies.  To stay relevant in this area, “We must stop developing outdated technology and shift our focus. We need to build trust with industry, prove our value and show the knowledge and innovative environments that we can provide, what companies can gain from cooperating with us,” says Dr. Mihailidis. 

A new paradigm
He stresses the need for creating transdisciplinary research environments that brake-up academic silo-thinking and interact with commercial actors, the health care sector and end-users. According to Dr. Mihailidis, this shift in paradigm is necessary if academic education and research is to remain relevant and important in the future of research about technology and ageing. “We can contribute. For instance, with the end user perspective, ethical aspects, long-term perspectives, and wild and crazy ideas,” he concludes.

Learn more about AGE-WELL

Learn more about iDAPT at the Toronto Rehab Foundation

Learn more about Forum Medicum



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Alex Mihailidis

Alex Mihailidis

Alex Mihailidis, Ph.D., P.Eng., is the Barbara G. Stymiest Research Chair in Rehabilitation Technology at the University of Toronto and Toronto Rehab Institute. He is also the Scientific Director of the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence, which focuses on the development of new technologies and services for older adults.



Steven Schmidt Photo: Anna Hellgren

Steven Schmidt

Ph.D. Associate professor and Scientific Coordinator at the Centre for Ageing and Supportive Environments (CASE)
E-mail: steven [dot] schmidt [at] med [dot] lu [dot] se