University of Victoria

Together we CanAssist.

BC innovations boost independence for seniors, people with disabilities

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Premier Christy Clark today announced $3.5 million to the University of Victoria to support an innovative project that will help seniors and people with disabilities remain as independent as possible while still living at home.

An exciting announcement: (l-r) CanAssist's Robin Syme and Luke Melchior; Premier Christy Clark; UVic President David Turpin; and MLA Ida Chong.“Our government is committed to putting in the proper supports for seniors and people with disabilities so that they can increase their independence,” said Premier Clark. “We want to support families and communities in planning for the future and this funding will help provide state-of-the-art devices to help eliminate challenges and create these opportunities.”

Premier Clark had the opportunity to test CanConnect, an online tool that is helping seniors connect with care providers and children with special needs in remote communities connect with family and friends. CanConnect is a simple and user-friendly enhancement of Skype that allows people who are normally unable to use computers to make free telephone calls and have face-to-face chats in real time over the Internet.

By 2031, almost a quarter of B.C.'s population will be over 65 and the number of individuals with disabilities or who face serious barriers to employment and inclusion is expected to increase in the next 20 years. It is estimated that thousands more families in B.C. will benefit from today's announcement.

“Preparing for a growing and aging population is a responsibility we all share,” said Minister of Health Michael de Jong. “This funding will bring together community partners, the business sector, students and volunteers to develop creative tools that will have a profound impact on the lives of B.C. families.”

Most of the $3.5 million will support an innovative partnership between CanAssist at the University of Victoria, Tyze Personal Networks and the PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship. These partners will combine their expertise to create Connect for Care, new online tools that will help connect clients with their families, caregivers and health care providers.

The remaining $500,000 will support CanFITT, a partnership between CanAssist and the Vancouver Island Health Authority to prototype the use of customized technologies to improve the quality of life for clients receiving services through the Choice in Supports for Independent Living program.

“The population shift will present opportunities and challenges for the province,” said Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors. “The needs and expectations of seniors are changing and we need to be prepared to respond in creative new ways that enable people to participate in their communities and stay connected with their families.”

“This project highlights how innovative community partnerships are strengthening our communities. It challenges us to improve accessibility in everything we do,” said Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong.

CanAssist has helped hundreds of families in B.C. since it was established in 1999. Over 4,500 students, 200 university faculty and more than 400 volunteers have participated in CanAssist, including retired physicians, machinists, seamstresses and engineers.

“CanAssist is a great example of a faculty member's initiative that has grown to make UVic a national leader in the development of innovative technologies for people with disabilities,” said University of Victoria President David Turpin. “With this generous support from the B.C. government, CanAssist and its community partners will continue to create practical and empowering tools to help special needs individuals and their families overcome the challenges they face.”

CanConnect presents users with a gallery of friends, family and health-care providers.Building on research from the PLAN Institute, Tyze Personal Networks will play a key role in developing Connect for Care. “No one should have to face illness, caregiving or disability on their own,” said Vickie Cammack, Tyze CEO. “This funding will assist friends, family, and neighbours across the province to connect, collaborate and care for one another.”

Tyze creates online, private, personal networks that strengthen relationships, address isolation and contribute to better health.Tyze builds on 20 years of experience in addressing isolation and creating circles of support around some the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Download the media backgrounder [PDF - 668 kb] on this announcement.

See the Technologies section for more information about CanConnect.

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