Bruyère Research Institute part of $36.6 million AGE-WELL Network

The Bruyère Research Institute (BRI) is pleased to announce the involvement of several of its researchers in an innovative new Network of Centres of Excellence program – AGE-WELL.

AGE-WELL is a pan-Canadian network of industry, non-profit, government, health and social care providers, and academic partners working together to assist older citizens in maintaining their independence, health and social participation.

It was announced this week that AGE-WELL will receive $36.6 million over five years as part of the federal government’s Network Centres of Excellence program.

AGE-WELL, short for Aging Gracefully across Environments Using Technology for Wellness, Engagement, and Long Life, will develop solutions to some of the major challenges facing Canada’s aging population.

BRI scientist and University of Ottawa professor Dr. Jeffrey Jutai will be co-lead on the AGE-WELL work package related to the ethical, cultural and social aspects of technology. His project, called PRIV-SENSE focuses on issues around the privacy and security of collecting continuous data and the ethics of using such technologies with older adults. His aim is to significantly improve understanding about the ethical, security and privacy issues that affect the adoption and widespread use of information and communication technologies.

BRI scientists Dr. Frank Knoefel, physician at the Bruyère Memory Program and adjunct research professor at Carleton University, and Dr. Rafik Goubran, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design at Carleton University, will co-lead a work package of AGE-WELL that aims to develop technology for the prevention and reduction of disease and disability. As part of this research theme, they will head a project called AMBI- MON, or Ambient-Based Physiological and Functional Monitoring.

See the full article here.


Computer Games Project receives additional funding from MITACS

Computer Games Project receives additional funding from MITACS
(August 2014)

Dr. Frank Knoefel, Dr. Vanessa Taler, Michael Breau, Lisa Sweet, Dr. Andrew Frank, Bruce Wallace and Dr. Rafik Goubran have received additional funding from Mitacs (matching funds) for their project, “Mild Cognitive Impairment: Can Decline to Dementia be Monitored and Delayed by Computer-Based Games?”.

This project explores the impact of computer games to delay decline and remotely monitor changes for individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment. This additional funding from the Mitacs-Accelerate Program has enabled an increase in the number of students working on the project and an expansion of the project scope.

The team will do additional analysis and algorithm design, will expand the work on electroencephalography (EEG) and will do additional data analytics work (such as number of cues, mouse movements and timing).

BAMO awards 19k to Centre of Pressure Project

Dr. Frank Knoefel, Dr. Rafik Goubran, Dr. Martin Bilodeau, Dr. Jeff Jutai and Dr. Heidi Sveistrup have received $19,239 from the Bruyère Academic Medical Organization Incentive Funds to further explore characteristics of center of pressure, using a pressure-sensitive mat, in community based older adults who have recently been discharged from Bruyère Geriatric Rehabilitation and Day Hospital program.

See our research project page for more details.

50k awarded to TAFETA from BRI Growth Funds

Dr. Frank Knoefel, Dr. Vanessa Taler, Michael Breau, Lisa Sweet, Dr. Andrew Frank, Bruce Wallace and Dr. Rafik Goubran have received $50,000 from the Bruyère Research Institute (BRI) Growth Funds to support the research on the impact of computer games to delay decline and remotely monitor changes for individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment.

See Research Projects for more details.

Smart Technologies in Affordable Seniors Housing (CMHC Research Highlight)

Demographic trends clearly show that the Canadian population is aging. In Ottawa alone, the number of seniors is now approximately 103,000 and will more than double to 230,576 by 2031. Furthermore, research indicates that the majority of older adults across Canada prefer to remain in their home as long as possible.

In addition, the ability to meet the desired option of senior adults to age in place represents tremendous cost savings to the healthcare industry. As a result, there is increasing market demand and potential for the introduction and/or retrofitting of housing with innovative technologies aimed at keeping older adults in their homes for longer periods.

The TAFETA Program of Research, a partnership of the Élisabeth Bruyère Research Institute and Carleton University, develops unobtrusive technologies to help older adults live independently – a term which is often referred to as “aging in place.” The program, which began in 2003, is one of only three smart technology research initiatives in Canada. Since inception, the TAFETA research team has successfully developed a variety of smart technologies that range from visual lighting cues which are capable of guiding home occupants in the dark to prevent falls, to pressure-sensitive mats which are placed under a mattress to monitor sleep abnormalities and predict premature stroke activity.

The majority of these smart technologies are integrated in a living laboratory called the TAFETA Smart Apartment located at the Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital. In addition, these smart tools are connected to a central computer to monitor activity within the smart home environment. Amongst the technologies is a magnetic “smart voice” fridge sensor that provides an audible cue to the home occupant when the fridge door is left open for pre-programmed time intervals.

The smart voice fridge sensor – the subject of this research study – serves two purposes for the older adult:

(1) it provides a practical reminder to the home occupant to close the fridge door to prevent food spoilage; and

(2) through a central computer connection, it provides a warning signal to indicate activity/inactivity levels to identify potential health issues to care providers monitoring the home activity (e.g., the fridge remains open or closed for extended periods of time representing a potential problem).

This study investigated the migration of this technology to an affordable community housing unit to gather data from real-life users and evaluate the sensor’s feasibility as an innovative technology to help older adults age at home.


It was hypothesized that the smart voice fridge sensor is a reliable and cost-effective tool which can be successfully integrated into seniors’ housing units. Prior to conducting this study, it was believed that the product would be accepted by its users (elderly home occupants, family members and care providers) as an innovative technology to facilitate aging in place. The specific research objectives were to:

(1) to evaluate the user acceptance of this technology; and

(2) evaluate the reliability of the system for larger scale implementation.


Research Site – The site of this research study was an affordable housing unit in Ottawa, Ontario located at 600 Kirkwood Avenue. The housing unit is operated by the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) and Ottawa West Community Support (OWCS) – partners in our research.

Participants –12 apartment occupants residing in the housing facility were approached for recruitment in this study between February and April of 2010. A total of 11 participants (mean age 75, 2 male) agreed to participate.

Technology Design – A total of five prototype fridge sensors were procured for this study. The fridge sensor is an approximately 5×5 inch metallic box comprised of a magnetic switch and software components to create a voice prompt, or cue, that says “the fridge/freezer door is open.” Each fridge sensor consists of a compilation of hardware modules that were tested separately prior to site installation.

Data Collection

Activity Tracking – A single fridge sensor was installed in each participant’s apartment for a period of six weeks. The time at which both the fridge and freezer door was opened and closed was recorded in a log text file with detailed time stamp (date/hour/min/sec) of all activity.

Pre- and Post-Installation Surveys – A survey was conducted upon installation and post-installation. Survey data gathered included details regarding the volume of the fridge sensor audible cue, preference for female or male voice for the audible cue and also whether participants would prefer a fridge with or without a sensor.

Data Analysis – Data collected over the six-week period was in two formats:

(1) log text files indicating fridge and freezer door activity; and

(2) responses to the pre- and post- installation surveys. All data was entered into an SPSS 17 database for analysis.


Findings are grouped in two categories: (1) Acceptability and (2) Patterns and Alarms.

(1) Acceptability – Results indicated that 8 participants had no preference for voice cue gender before or after the trial and 9 participants indicated that they did not find the voice sensors annoying. Additional results are outlined in Figures 1 and 2.


Before Trial

After Trial

Usefulness: Was the sensor useful? Yes









 Volume: Was the sensor too loud? Yes









Figure 1 – Pre- and post-installation questionnaire data Response to question: “If you had a choice, would you prefer to have a fridge with a fridge sensor or without”

Pie chart of figure 3
Figure 2 – Fridge sensor preferences of participants


(2) Patterns and Alarms – A total of 28 days of consecutive data in a month for 8 participants was analyzed. Within this time period, fridge and freezer door frequencies of 281-1698 were identified. Two alarm conditions were presented:

(1) No fridge activity for 8 hours (5 am to 9 pm) results in an alarm; and

(2) No fridge activity for 4 hours (8 am to 2 pm) results in an alarm.

Three fridge activity patterns were identified. Additional details are outlined in Figure 3:

Fridge Activity Pattern # of alarms condition (1) # of alarms condition (2)
 Bimodal 28 99
 Trimodal 3 72
 Multimodal 5 20
 Total 36 191

 Figure 3 – Total number of alarms that were set off under condition (1) and (2) for each group in a 28 day period.



The ultimate goal of the TAFETA Program of Research is to develop technology to facilitate aging in place.

In terms of acceptability, findings of the study are in line with research which indicates a larger number of elderly people will accept smart technologies, such as the smart voice fridge sensor, to help prolong their independence. The participants recognized the technology’s future potential and indicated a preference for fridges with the technology verses fridges without, despite the fact that these individuals did not feel that they needed a smart voice fridge sensor at that time.

In terms of patterns and alarms, three predominant patterns of fridge usage among participants were identified.

In addition, a full test report outlining the robust performance of the units was generated.

Further studies are needed to confirm both user acceptance of the alarm system and to determine whether the alarms actually correlate to adverse health conductions. In addition, a larger sample size is required with a population that lives in a diverse residential setting and includes individuals with more diverse health conditions to further validate the acceptability of this technology.

To further validate the concept of “smart housing” amongst older adults, the research team will direct its next steps towards integrating multiple sensors to capture more robust data sets that yield more detailed information regarding the community dwelling older adults’ health status.

The ultimate goal of the team is to further demonstrate the viability of such technologies in promoting independent living amongst older adults and facilitating the development of such devices for market.

 Although this information product reflects housing experts’ current knowledge, it is provided for general information purposes only. Any reliance or action taken based on the information, materials and techniques described are the responsibility of the user. Readers are advised to consult appropriate professional resources to determine what is safe and suitable in their particular case. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation assumes no responsibility for any consequence arising from use of the information, materials and techniques described.

©2011, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Printed in Canada
Produced by CMHC

To find more Research Highlights plus a wide variety of information products, visit our website at

Mailing address:
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
700 Montreal Road
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P7

Phone: 1-800-668-2642
Fax: 1-800-245-9274

This study was funded (or partially funded) by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) under the terms of its External Research Program (ERP). However, the views expressed are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CMHC. CMHC’s financial contribution to this study does not constitute an endorsement of its contents.

CMHC Project Officer: Jim Zamprelli
Consultant: Drs. F. Knoefel and R. Goubran, Élisabeth Bruyère Research Institute and Carleton University


Donner les moyens de vieillir à la maison (Le Droit)

Le mot d’ordre était le même des deux côtés de la rivière des Outaouais, hier, dans le cadre de la journée internationale des personnes âgées : il faut leur donner les moyens de vieillir à la maison.

« Quand ces personnes commencent à perdre de la mobilité ou la mémoire, on veut pouvoir leur fournir une technologie qui leur permette de retarder le moment d’entrer en institution », affirme le Dr Frank Knoefel, aussi chercheur à l’Institut de recherche Élizabeth-Bruyère.

L’Institut présentait, hier, en collaboration avec la faculté de génie et de design de l’Université Carleton, les résultats d’une expérience réalisée pendant six semaines auprès de 11 personnes âgées de l’Hôpital Élizabeth-Bruyère. Des capteurs émettant un signal vocal dès le moment où leur réfrigérateur était ouvert, que ce soit depuis quelques minutes ou pour une période prolongée, avaient été mis en place dans leur appartement. « Je crois que c’est une bonne chose, surtout si l’hôpital améliore le concept », a témoigné l’un des utilisateurs de la technologie à l’essai, André Dupras.

Les prochaines étapes de l’expérience y seront d’ailleurs destinées. « Nous voulons vérifier s’il existe des patrons d’utilisation du réfrigérateur afin de développer un système d’alarme approprié à l’utilisation des personnes âgées », a souligné le Dr Knoefel.

Foire d’information

Du côté de Gatineau, les Habitations partagées de l’Outaouais avaient organisé une foire d’information au Cégep de l’Outaouais, pendant laquelle les quelque 200 visiteurs à s’y être présentés ont pu découvrir les services qui leur sont offerts dans la région par le biais de kiosques, mais aussi de conférences.

« Le but, c’est de briser l’isolement », a mentionné la directrice générale de l’organisme, Josée Turcotte. Selon elle, la journée internationale des aînés est l’occasion parfaite pour les personnes âgées, mais aussi pour les organismes oeuvrant pour leur bien-être, de faire du réseautage.

Le conseiller municipal à la Ville de Gatineau Luc Angers a rappelé que près du quart de la population du Grand Gatineau est âgée de 65 ans et plus. À Ottawa, la population aînée constitue 12 % de la population. – Caroline Chrétien

Des maisons intelligentes pour les aînés (Ottawa Business Journal)

Des maisons intelligentes pour les aînés (Ottawa Business Journal, 28 janvier 2010)

Grâce à un système de censeurs installés sur des appareils ménagers reliés à un ordinateur qui peut recenser le bien-être et l’état de santé des résidents, les aînés pourraient être en mesure de rester dans leur maison plus longtemps.

Cette initiative est issue d’un partenariat entre des chercheurs des soins continus Bruyère et d’autres de l’Université Carleton. À une époque où les enfants déménagent souvent loin de leurs parents, cette nouvelle technologie se veut un outil pour aider les aînés à vieillir à la maison et en toute sécurité, selon le Dr Frank Knoefel, président du programme de recherche TAFETA et vice-président, affaires médicales et chef, information et soutien cliniques, Soins continus Bruyère. «Les censeurs peuvent être intégrés dans les maisons des aînés et garder un œil sur eux et même prévenir l’hospitalisation», indique-t-il.

Le système est présentement à l’essai dans une résidence de logements communautaires pour personnes âgées d’Ottawa. Quelques résidents ont accepté de participer à l’initiative, dont André Dupras.

Un censeur a été installé sur son réfrigérateur et son congélateur. Lorsque la porte demeure ouverte trop longtemps, un message audio se fait entendre pour lui indiquer. Au bout d’un moment, le message est une fois de plus répété mais beaucoup plus fort.

Pour M. Dupras, qui vit seul depuis neuf ans, cette technologie le rassure. «Si vous n’ouvrez pas le réfrigérateur pour quelques jours, ils vont aussi savoir que quelque chose ne va pas.» À ce moment-là, une alarme peut être envoyée, que ce soit un appel à la personne de garde au complexe résidentiel, un appel à un membre de la famille ou même un appel au 911 si quelque chose d’anormal a été enregistré. «Pour les censeurs de lits par exemple, on peut voir quand la personne est allée se coucher, si sa respiration est normale. C’est beaucoup plus compliqué que pour la technologie du frigo», explique le co-président du programme de recherche TAFETA et doyen de la faculté de génie de l’Université Carleton, Rafik Goubran.

L’ordinateur est aussi en mesure d’analyser les situations au cas par cas. Si une personne a regardé la télé jusqu’à 4h et est allée se coucher par la suite, le fait qu’elle n’ait pas ouvert le réfrigérateur avant midi est normal et aucune alarme n’est envoyée. «Si par conséquent la personne ne s’est pas levée, n’est pas allée aux toilettes et n’est pas sortie, un message à la personne en garde va être envoyé pour aller vérifier ce qui ne va pas», ajoute M. Goubran.

Des dizaines d’autres censeurs comme pour le four, la porte, le téléviseur et même le plancher ont été développés ou sont en voie de l’être et sont présentement à l’étape d’être testés. Les gens peuvent se procurer l’un ou l’autre des censeurs, spécifie M. Goubran. «C’est tout à fait volontaire», conclut-il.

Do you speak fridge? (The Charlatan)

Do you speak fridge? (The Charlatan, 28 January 2010)

Although talking fridges and personal health applications for your BlackBerry may sound like something from the future, the technology to measure our daily routine and a home that reminds us to take care of ourselves is not that far away. In fact, it’s right here in Ottawa.

New technology developed by Carleton researchers will help monitor seniors and others suffering from health issues without compromising their independence.

Carleton dean of engineering and design Rafik Goubran, along with Carleton students and the Elizabeth BruyèreResearch Institute, have developed a “smart fridge sensor” which monitors usage of the appliance and whether or not the fridge is closed.

“We are talking about unobtrusive technologies,” said Jodie Taylor, the project manager of the research program at Elisabeth Bruyère, where the technology is being tested this week.

If a senior fails to close the door, a verbal reminder will tell the senior to do so. This stops food spoilage that could make the individual sick. This technology can be really useful for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

“[The smart fridge sensor is] part of a bigger system, it is part of a number of smart technologies deployed in the apartment to monitor the health and well-being of the person,” Goubran said.

“The objective of the technology is meant to keep seniors independent,” Taylor said.

“The smartness is involved in the room where the senior is living. We don’t require them to do anything different, there is no intrusion in any way because the information is analysed as it is happening,” Goubran said.

Some of the other technologies developed include stovetop sensors and a bed mat that records sleeping patterns. The system can then use the data to pinpoint abnormalities in the routine of the senior and could lead to an alert.

Alerts can range from verbal commands to calling 911.

The bed mat, for example, can measure such slight movements that it can detect abnormal breathing rates and contact the senior’s doctor or family members.

The smart technology is not only for seniors but “could be used with people with long-term health issues,” Goubran said, and even to monitor breathing rates in infants.

“If homes are equipped with these technologies perhaps [patients] could leave earlier from the hospital,” Goubran said, taking the burden off the health-care system.

Goubran is also in the process of creating a BlackBerry application for health-care workers visiting patients’ homes.

The application would allow health-care workers to review any complications recorded that the patient may have had since their last visit.

All of the research for the technology is centred at Carleton where undergraduate, graduates and PhD students are involved in the research of applications for the smart home.