University of Waterloo Virtual Conference on Aging, COVID-19 and the Adoption of Health Technology

Conference on aging COVID-19 and the adoption of health technology.

Wednesday, March 24 - Thursday, March 25, 2021

Hosted by the School of Public Health and Health Systems (SPHHS), Network for Aging Research (NAR), and the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (CBB), this free virtual event will take place over two afternoons and examine the promise and limits of technology to promote successful longevity by featuring a diverse group of leaders.

The speakers are aging and technology researchers, clinicians and frontline workers, members of advocacy groups, policymakers, technology officers from industry and visionaries that have implemented innovative models for supporting older adults.

Please register below. Instructions for accessing the platform will be provided prior to the conference.

If you have questions, please email the conference team.




Registration is now closed. Please email conference coordinators regarding waitlists and late registration.

If you have already registered for this event, your unique join code was/will be emailed to you from CBB with the subject line: “Your Conference Access Link.” After you have used this unique join code to create a Brella profile, you can access the Brella platform.

If you have not received the “Your Conference Access Link” email by March 23 or if you have any issues accessing the platform, please email

ITINERARY March 24, 2021

The Hallman Panels: International, national and local perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on older adults

Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) UTC−04:00



1:00 - 1:15 p.m.
Introduction and welcome

Speaker: Lili Liu, University of Waterloo, Canada

1:15 - 2:20 p.m.
International perspectives on COVID-19

Moderator: Chris Perlman, University of Waterloo, Canada


Graziano Onder, Italian National Institute of Health, Italy

Anja Declercq, KU Leuvin, Belgium

Leon Geffen, Samson Institute for Ageing Research, South Africa

Terry Lum, University of Hong Kong

Question and answer period to follow

2:20 - 2:30 p.m.
2:30 - 4:15 p.m.
The pan-Canadian impact of COVID on older adults

Moderator: Nicola Mercer, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health


Andrea Foebel, Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)
The pan-Canadian impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s Health Systems: highlights from CIHI data

Jennifer Walker, Laurentian University
The impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples

Carrie McAiney, University of Waterloo
The impact of COVID-19 on persons living with dementia and family care partners: challenges, well-being and resilience

Veronique Boscart, Conestoga College
Working through the COVID-19 pandemic: local experiences in health care and education

Vivek Goel, University of Toronto 
Population health perspectives on COVID-19 impacts

Question and answer period to follow

4:15 - 4:30 p.m.
Wrap up and introduction to DAY 2 events

Presenter: Paul Stolee, University of Waterloo

4:30 - 5:00 p.m.
University of Waterloo students present posters on research in aging

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ITINERARY March 25, 2021

Implementing technology for healthy aging

Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) UTC−04:00



1:00 - 1:10 p.m.
Introduction and welcome

Speaker: John Hirdes, University of Waterloo, Canada

1:10 - 1:40 p.m.
Keynote: William F. Forbes Lecture

The promise and limits of technology to promote successful longevity

Speaker: Neil Charness, Florida State University  

1:40 - 2:50 p.m.
Technology to promote successful longevity and strategies for adoption

Please join us as the University of Waterloo's Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (CBB) hosts a panel of distinguished and diverse perspectives from academia, industry and government on the use of technology to promote successful longevity in older adults.

Moderator: Catherine Burns, University of Waterloo


Brett Belchetz, Maple
How  Maple found success moving medical visits for older adults online

Nova Syed, Office of the Treasury Board
Managing a portfolio of innovative health technologies from evidence development to system adoption

After short presentations from each speaker, they will come together for a panel discussion with pre-submitted questions, where our keynote speaker will also comment.

2:50 - 3:00 p.m.
3:00 - 4:10 p.m.
Innovative models for care of older adults

Please join us as CBB hosts a panel of innovative leaders from older adult residence and government, working to improve the models of care in Canada.

Moderator: Karim Karim, University of Waterloo


Josh Williams, Ministry of Health
Enabling the adoption of digital health solutions and the delivery of innovative care models

Nashir Samanani, Generations Calgary

Blending childcare and senior care in one campus to encourage high quality social interactions across generations

After short presentations from each speaker, they will come together for a panel discussion with pre-submitted questions.

4:10 - 4:15 p.m.
Conference closing and invitation to stay for networking session

Presenter: Karim Karim, University of Waterloo

4:15 - 5:30 p.m.
Open networking with CBB researchers and conference attendees

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Graziano Onder.

Graziano Onder, MD, PhD

Department of Cardiovascular, Endocrine-metabolic disease and Aging

Italian National Institute of Health, Italy

Graziano Onder was co-ordinator of the national group for the evaluation of COVID-19 related deaths and previously Associate Professor of Geriatrics at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Policlinico A. Gemelli in Rome. He is a fellow of the European Academy for Medicine of Ageing and a member of the Geriatric Working Group of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA). His research is focused on pharmacoepidemiology in the elderly, including assessment of prevalence and risk factors for adverse drug reactions and inappropriate prescribing in the elderly, frailty, multimorbidity and organizational characteristics of health care systems.

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Anja Declercq.

Anja Declercq, PhD

Faculty of Social Sciences
Head of the Elderly Care Research Unit, LUCAS Research Institute

KU Leuvin, Belgium

Anja Declercq studied applied economics and sociology and has a PhD in sociology. She is a fellow and member of the board of interRAI, Chair of the interRAI Network for Integrated Care and Aging, and conducts implementation research on BelRAI in Belgium. Her other and related research interests are the organization of care for the older persons, quality of care and quality of life of older people, and the analysis of societal changes that have an impact on older people and the care they need and receive.

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Leon Geffen.

Leon Geffen, MBChB FCFP(SA) 

Family Physician
Executive Director
Samsung Institute for Ageing Research, South Africa

Leon Geffen is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Cape Town. His research interests include cognitive impairment, oral health in older persons, the use of peer support programs to improve well-being of older persons, decision support systems to assist in care planning for nursing home residents and improving health-care delivery services in under-resourced areas. 

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Terry Y. Lum.

Terry Lum, PhD

Henry G. Leon Professor in Social Work and Social Administration
Head of the Department of Social Work and Social Administration
University of Hong Kong 

Terry Lum’s research interests focus on long-term care, productive aging, and geriatric mental health. He is an advisor to the Hong Kong government on long-term care and has led the development of new assessment instruments and services matching mechanism for long-term care in Hong Kong. He is also a member of two World Health Organization (WHO) committees on healthy aging and long-term care. Before returning to Hong Kong, he was a tenured professor at the University of Minnesota. He was elected as a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America in 2011, awarded the Career Leadership Award by the Association of Gerontology Education in Social Work in 2016 and is an editor of the Journal of Aging and Mental Health.   

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Chris Perlman.


Chris Perlman, PhD

Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Health Systems
University of Waterloo

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Andrea Foebel.

Andrea Foebel, PhD

Senior Researcher
Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)

Andrea Foebel leads the collaborative development of high-quality analytical products that meet the information needs of stakeholders and is passionate about translating research learnings into practice. She holds a PhD in Aging, Health & Well-Being from University of Waterloo and has extensive postdoctoral research experience with interRAI in Finland and Italy. She was a scientific consultant in the Department of Ageing & Life Course at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva and a contributing author to the first World Report on Ageing and Health (WHO, 2015). Before joining CIHI, she completed post-doctoral training in gerontology and genetics at the Karolinska Institute working with Sweden’s extensive health registry data.

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Jennifer Walker.

Jennifer Walker, PhD, CRC

Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health
School of Rural and Northern Health
Laurentian University

Jennifer Walker is a Haudenosaunee member of Six Nations of the Grand River with a PhD in Community Health Services (Epidemiology). Her work focuses on Indigenous community-engaged health research using large health services databases. Her research program is supported through a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health at Laurentian University and she is a Core Scientist and Indigenous Health Lead at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). In her roles, she contributes to a number of COVID-19 response initiatives including the COVID-19 provincial modelling table, First Nations community-specific COVID-19 epidemiological modeling, and is partnered with the Chiefs of Ontario on several COVID-19 related initiatives. She is also a co-investigator on the project Engaging First Nations People: COVID-19 Real World Outcomes, Healthcare Use, and Costs in Ontario

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Carrie McAiney.

Carrie McAiney, PhD

Associate Professor
School of Public Health and Health Systems
University of Waterloo

Carrie McAiney is the Schlegel Research Chair in Dementia, and Scientific Director of the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging. She is also the Knowledge Translation and Exchange Co-Lead with the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA). She was a member of the Alzheimer Society of Canada Task Force on COVID-19 and Dementia and Co-Lead of the Social Connection Working Group. Carrie was a member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Expert Panel for the Assessment of Evidence and Best Practices for the Canadian Dementia Strategy. Her research involves working collaboratively with persons living with dementia, family care partners, providers, and organizations to evaluate interventions and approaches that aim to enhance well-being among persons living with dementia and their family members. 

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Veronique Boscart.

Veronique Boscart, RN, MScN, MEd, PhD

Executive Dean
School of Health and Life Sciences
Conestoga College

Veronique Boscart is the Executive Dean of the School of Health and Life Sciences at Conestoga College. She is the chair holder of the CIHR/Schlegel Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Senior Care funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Veronique has extensive gerontological experience including working as a nurse clinician, educator, manager and researcher in an international setting. 

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Vivek Goel.

Vivek Goel, CM 

Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, 
Dalla Lana School of Public Health
University of Toronto 
President and Vice-Chancellor Designate
University of Waterloo 

Vivek Goel obtained his medical degree from McGill University and completed post-graduate medical training in community medicine and earned an MSc in Community Health from the University of Toronto. He earned an MS in Biostatistics from Harvard University’s School of Public Health. His research has focused on health services evaluation and promotion of the use of research evidence in health decision-making. He was a founding scientist at IC/ES and founding president and CEO of Public Health Ontario from 2008 until 2014 and has held a number of senior administrative roles at University of Toronto. He is also a member of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on the development of a Pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy and Scientific Advisor for CanCOVID, the national research platform for COVID-19 research.  

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Nicola Mercer.


Nicola Mercer, MD

Chief Executive Officer and Medical Officer of Health
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health

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Neil Charness.

Neil Charness, PhD

Professor, Psychology
Director of the Institute for Successful Longevity
Florida State University  

Neil Charness's research focuses on human factors approaches to age and technology use. He has published more than 200 journal articles, book chapters, proceedings papers, and technical reports and also co-authored books on Designing Telehealth for an Aging Population: A Human Factors Perspective,and Designing for Older Adults: Principles and Creative Human Factors Approaches. He has received the Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award, the Franklin V. Taylor Award, the M. Powell Lawton award, the APA Prize for Interdisciplinary Team Research, Grandmaster of the International Society for Gerontechnology and APA’s Committee on Aging award for the Advancement of Psychology and Aging. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Gerontological Society of America.

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Brett Belchetz.

Brett Belchetz, MD

Chief Executive Officer

Brett Belchetz co-founded Maple, Canada's leading virtual-care provider, connecting patients and health-care providers like doctors and therapists for online medical visits in minutes. He’s also a practicing physician in Toronto, and a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute. In addition, Brett’s passion for health-care communication and policy have led him to work as an on-air medical expert for CTV and Global News, as well as a contributor to outlets such as the National Post. Previously, Brett worked as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company.

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Nova Syed.

Nova Syed, MBA

Senior Economist
Office of the Treasury Board  

Nova Syed has been working at the intersection of policy, health technology and business for almost a decade. She is currently a senior economist at the Office of the Treasury Board, focused on health infrastructure policy to inform the provincial government's fiscal strategy and decision making on health capital investments. Previously at the Ontario Ministry of Health, Nova was responsible for managing a portfolio of innovative health technologies from evidence development to system adoption. Nova was also an MBA fellow at the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab and holds a BSc in Molecular Genetics.  

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Catherine Burns.


Catherine Burns, PhD

Professor, Systems Design Engineering
Executive Director, Health Initiatives and Sponsored Research
University of Waterloo

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Josh Williams.

Josh Williams, MBA candidate 

Lead, Project Alignment and Support, Investment and Performance, Digital Health Division
Ontario Ministry of Health

With more than 15 years’ experience as a physiotherapist, Josh Williams understands the gaps across the health-care system that lead to poor experiences for patients and providers, less than optimal outcomes and unsustainable expenditures. He also understands the passion and pride that health-care workers bring to their roles, the innovation that happens in pockets of the system and the untapped potential of digital transformation. It was this experience that led him to a role with the Ontario Ministry of Health, where he supports the implementation of the Digital First for Health strategy. He is also pursuing an MBA at the University of Toronto and is a lecturer in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto. 

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Nashir Samanani.

Nashir Samanani, BS

CEO, QuirkLogic
Generations Calgary

Nashir Samanani is the founder of QuirkLogic, where he leads his team in bringing innovative new collaborative technologies for use by learners and educators in education and by professionals and teams in business. He also chairs the team that is responsible for the design and construction of the Generations Calgary project and has served as chair of the United Way of Calgary and Area, and on the Mayor’s task forces to End Homelessness and the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative. He has also served on the Council of Champions for UpStart (The United Way’s Children’s Initiative) and is a Community Champion for Momentum Calgary.  

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Karim Karim.


Karim Karim, PhD

Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Executive Director, Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology
University of Waterloo

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This conference is made possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors below, with additional support from the Hallman Foundation and University of Waterloo Office of Research.