The University of Waterloo and Pervasive Dynamics will develop and test wearable health technologies that can improve stroke rehabilitation as part of a new partnership aimed at transforming the health of older adults.

The joint research initiative, the first partnership between Waterloo and the Canadian developer of medical devices, will be part of the new Advanced Aging ResearCH Centre (ARCH) at Waterloo.

“Advanced wearable sensors are the next generation of personalized health care,” said Professor Bill McIlroy, of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo and head of ARCH. “They enable us to gain insights that are just not available through off-the-shelf products.”

The new devices will allow researchers to extract sophisticated data related to a stroke victim’s cardiovascular and nervous systems, balance and gait, and generate tailored diagnostic reports to improve physical and mental rehabilitation.

The new partnership will also explore the development of other wearable health technologies for older adults.

“From the management of chronic disease, to fall prevention and mobility strategies, health wearables have the potential to make a huge difference for the elderly,” said Muhammad Khan, founder and CEO of Pervasive Dynamics, and an alumnus of the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program at Waterloo. “If we can get technologies like these in the hands of the public and practitioners we can significantly reduce the impact and burden of an aging population on the Canadian health-care system by providing clinicians with more data on which to base health-care decisions.”

By 2030, one-quarter of the Canadian population — close to 8 million people — will be over the age of 65. Stroke is the third major cause of death in Canada, with approximately 50,000 Canadians suffering a stroke each year. More than 20 per cent of older adults will take serious falls, costing the health-care system $2 billion in related costs annually.

“ARCH is focused on facilitating advances in therapies to slow down the trajectory of aging and reduce the risk of age-related injury and disease,” said McIlroy. “If we hope to reduce the impact of an aging population, we need to start now.”

In May, the Canada Foundation for Innovation awarded ARCH $1.3 million for a variety of diagnostic and measurement tools. The first of its kind in Canada, the facility will house the most comprehensive collection of equipment focused on aging in the country.

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