According to the World Health Organization, by 2050, those aged 60 years and older will number approximately 2 billion, a significant rise from 900 million in 2015. In response to the aging global population, health-care systems confront the immense challenge of catering to the requirements of older adults, presenting challenges for individuals, health-care providers, caregivers and the institutions serving them.

Velocity in collaboration with the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CAHBI), powered by Toronto-based hospital Baycrest, kicked off the AgeTech Innovation Challenge on October 30. The 12-day student hackathon provides Waterloo students with the opportunity to work in teams and develop innovative solutions aimed at enhancing the quality of life for the global aging population.

Working in teams of five, participants will need to develop solutions for one of three problem spaces. The spaces include: optimizing and enhancing health for older adults, empowering caregivers of older adults to live their best lives and optimizing the health system to improve outcomes and access for older adults.

Jesse Mastrangelo in front of students

Jesse Mastrangelo answers a student's questions

"We are very excited to work with the University of Waterloo on this challenge. CAHBI has been promoting innovation in aging and brain health through grant and funding initiatives,” said Jesse Mastrangelo, program manager of investments and venture services at CABHI. “Our programs have invested more than $100 million in this sector, highlighting our dedication to supporting researchers and organizations."

The hackathon will have workshops and mentor sessions to help participants understand the spaces better. Every group will have access to on-campus workspaces, cutting-edge technology and the equipment they need to develop the best possible solution and presentation.

Students will also have access to a senior advisory panel for questions and insights.

Ian Goldman

Ian Goldman (left), a member on the senior advisory panel chats with student teams

"We are bringing our collective experience in aging and brain health, with myself as a caregiver and the other panel members being health-care providers or are seniors navigating the health system,” said Ian Goldman, a member of the senior advisory panel. “They’re all very enterprising, and we want to assist the students in validating their ideas. Our aim is to enhance the likelihood of their ideas being practical and useful, rather than investing time in building something that may go unused by their target customers."

Once students have attended the workshops and consulted with the advisory panel, they can develop their solutions and prepare them for the project showcase. This phase of the challenge is an opportunity for teams to present their ideas in an engaging way using a tri-fold display board — similar to a science fair. They will need to explain the problem they're addressing and their solution during an eight-minute presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Judges and attendees will evaluate the presentations. The top eight teams will proceed to the finals. During a mentoring session, these finalists will give a three-minute presentation and receive feedback from experienced mentors to improve their pitches for the finals.

After the presentation outlining how the challenge works, students had the opportunity to network and form teams. The registrants were a mix of new and veteran student hackathon participants. All were eager to gain new experience in pitching, product development, working in a team setting and applying their education and learning to a unique problem.

Elizabeth looking for a team

Elizabeth Agyei (centre right) and her team talk with a member of the senior advisory panel

“I’ve participated in one health-related hackathons in the past, because of my background I’m really interested in using science to solve problems like these, especially ones that are so important and focused on the health of people and address challenges that society faces,” said Elizabeth Agyei, a second-year student in Biomedical Sciences.

The students are vying for more than $15,000 in prizes with three teams taking home a cash prize of $5,000 and one lucky winner has the chance to nab the special senior’s choice prize. Teams will be chosen based on the impact and relevance, creativity, scalability and on how well they deliver their pitch presentation.

The AgeTech Innovation Challenge will prove more to be than just a competition; it's a celebration of innovation, mentorship and a commitment to our aging population. Bound to create some concrete solutions, the initiative is bringing together young minds, industry experts and seniors with lived experiences who have a shared desire to improve the lives of older adults.

Each team will pitch live to a panel of judges at in hopes of winning one of three $5,000 prizes.

The finals will be judged by:

  • Ryan Webster, director of finance and performance at Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, powered by Baycrest
  • Dylan Horvath, president and CEO of Cortex Design
  • Rachel Bartholomew, CEO and founder of HyIvy
  • Moazam Khan, director of health at Velocity