What is healthy aging? Calgary Reverse Trade Show sparks conversation


May 2, 2017
By Shea Coburn

Canada’s population demographics are experiencing a new phenomenon: There are now more Canadians over the age of 65 than under the age of 14. As the population ages, what challenges will affect health care provision? What are the priorities for healthy aging for seniors and their health care providers? The O’Brien Institute for Public Health’s W21C program at the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Health Technology Assessment and Adoption formulated a networking event to investigate these very questions.

May 2, 2017 saw the arrival of the first Calgary Reverse Trade Show (RTS), focused on finding solutions to seniors’ health care delivery, by hearing the needs of health care providers.

“The tradeshow was refreshing for me as typically people are pitching products or strategies they have, in order to convince others that their solution is good,” says Brad Prince, an MD/MBA student at the University of Calgary who attended the event. “With the RTS, those presenting were focused on identifying and defining problems, which from an entrepreneurship perspective is much more actionable.”

In addition to the areas in need of improvement, the RTS provided entrepreneurs like Prince the opportunity to shine. “New problems often require new insights and startups offer this in droves. Having people who understand their problem and are ready to take action shortens that cycle and allows smaller companies, like mine, to have a shot at taking root.”

Comprised of seven different presentations, frontline health care providers spoke about challenges they encounter in their day-to-day caregiving with regard to healthy aging. Margot Sondermann, a palliative consultant with AHS presented her challenge with oxygen concentrators, outlining the problems arising from the bulkiness, heat and noise produced by current devices available on the market. For patients with respiratory issues, the concentrators needs to be frequently adjusted, but the noise and heat from the device make it uncomfortable to be near. Finding a way to distance the patient from the concentrator while still giving them easy control over the settings is an issue yet to be resolved.

“I really enjoyed participating in the RTS and meeting so many bright and enthusiastic problem-solvers,” says Sondermann.  “I was surprised by the varied talent and expertise in the room and how willing many of them are to help me with my healthcare challenge.”

Along with the health care providers, the RTS also featured a panel of older Calgarians, organized by the O’Brien Institute’s Brenda Strafford Centre on Aging. Where the health care providers focused on the procedures and products related to care delivery, those individuals within the 65+ group spoke about what healthy aging means to them; engagement in the community, maintaining social networks and feeling heard were three themes from the panelists.

The event culminated in an hour and a half networking session where attendees were able to talk more in depth with the challenge presenters, panelists and each other. The discussion was aimed at creating connections for the development of solutions to the presented health care challenges. The hope is that as Canada’s population ages, more conversations such as these will be had, helping to identify priority areas in maintaining healthy aging both in and out of the health care system.

Presentations from the event are available here.