The World’s Experts on Caregiving, Disability, Aging, and Technology met in Toronto.

Six concurrent international conferences addressed the challenges facing the world’s aging and disabled populations and their caregivers.

From June 5- 8th, 2011, world experts from multiple disciplines gathered in Toronto for a one-of-a-kind event, the Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology (FICCDAT). Co-chaired by Dr. Geoff Fernie, VP Research at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Andria Spindel, President and C.E.O. of March of Dimes Canada, the program built on the success of the inaugural Festival held in 2007. These conferences addressed research, policy and practice that will enable people aging with, and into disabilities to live longer and better.

More than 1100 delegates from 42 countries included technologists, engineers, health and social service practitioners,  academics, government representatives, seniors, people with disabilities, caregivers and businesses that serve these constituents.

The six conferences offered were:

  • Growing Older With A Disability
  • Caregiving in the 21st Century
  • Advances in Neurorehabilitation
  • RESNA/ICTA - Advancing Rehabilitation Technologies for an Aging Society
  • 34th Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Conference
  • International Conference on Best Practices in Universal Design

"One important feature of FICCDAT is that it included a major emphasis on technology," says Dr. Geoff Fernie, Vice President, Research, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

"The technology ranges from high-tech machines that support people in hospitals to devices that make life easier and safer for families caring for older relatives. The Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society meeting was primarily concerned with the technologies that help people recover in hospital; the RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America)/ICTA (3rd International Conference on Technology and Aging) focused on the technologies that support people living at home and increase the mobility of people living with disabilities, the Universal Design Conference concerned itself with all aspects of the built environment and transportation, which makes things accessible for all people," adds Dr. Fernie. The Advances in Neurorehabilitation Conference focused on the most contemporary approaches to improving recovery after neurological injury across a broad professional spectrum from biomedical and molecular therapies to the hi-tech employment of robotics and virtual reality.

"FICCDAT is an unusual confluence of the academic and the practical, and bringing together practitioner and researchers in an environment of shared learning and knowledge transfer," explains Andria Spindel, C.E.O. of March of Dimes Canada.

"The multiplicity of disciplines was unique in the world, encouraging all segments of society, all areas of practice, to collaborate for the betterment and quality of life for people living with a disability," she continues.

"Most importantly was the acknowledgement of the need for bridging aging and disability because of the concerns and experiences are most often similar in society.  Thus the Growing Older With A Disability Conference stressed the areas for collaboration.  The Caregiving in the 21st Century Conference acknowledged the incredibly important, often unrecognized information and support role played by family and informal caregivers." says Andria.

Other highlights included:

The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, The Honourable David C. Onley, O.Ont. opened the Festival with commendation for its organizers, acknowledgement of the important issues and the impactful agenda.  He stressed that at least one in five Ontarians is an informal caregiver and that over half of Ontarians were either people with disabilities or family members to those with disabilities.  He noted that as the Boomer generation ages into disability, it will have enormous implications, not just for policy-makers, but for families as well.

The Keynote Address was delivered by author and parent of a son with a disability, Donna Thomson, who stressed the urgent, ethical imperative to include the consumer at the centre of all services, policies and practices.  She offered a view on the value of every life, apart from just seeing people as making a monetary contribution to society.

Featured speakers in each conference brought attention to issues common in developed countries, as well as challenges and differences in various regions of the world.

FICCDAT had financial support of several key funders.  We thank our Diamond Sponsor, the Province of Ontario and Platinum Sponsor, The John C. and Sally Horsfall Eaton Foundation for their generous contributions towards making FICCDAT a success.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation committed to making FICCDAT as inclusive as possible, with a grant that subsidized the participation of informal caregivers, people with disabilities and seniors attend the Festival, as well as providing assistive devices and technologies for attendees. The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the Government of Ontario.

We also thank Caregiver Solutions and Rehab and Community Care Magazines, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, The Printing House Ltd., BlackBerry, the Government of Canada, the International Development Research Centre, the Sheraton Centre Toronto Limited, McArthur & Company, Centre for Stroke Recovery, Shoppers Home Health Care, Extendicare and Comfort Keepers for their support.

The sold out Exhibition featured state of the art and emerging new technologies, home care services and products, as well as not for profits and government agencies which provide services to those who are aging and people who have a disability.

The Co-chairs extend a huge thank you to over 200 volunteers who contributed to the success of the Festival; the members of the Steering Committee, the conference planning committees, the Operations Committees and onsite volunteers as well as staff at March of Dimes and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute who supported this event.

The FICCDAT Steering Committee:

  • Andria Spindel, March of Dimes Canada (Co-chair)
  • Dr. Geoff Fernie, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Co-chair)
  • Sally Horsfall Eaton, Honorary Chair
  • Kelly Duffin, Alzheimer Society of Canada
  • Bianca Stern, Baycrest
  • Bill Laidlaw, Canadian Assistive Devices Association (CADA)
  • Katherine Hum-Antonopoulos, Canadian Hearing Society
  • Dave Gretzinger, Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society
  • Ross Mayot, CARP
  • John M. Rafferty, CNIB
  • Jennifer Moles, The Health Technology Exchange
  • Dr. Jane Barratt, International Federation on Ageing
  • Diane Varga, Ontario Seniors' Secretariat, Ministry of Tourism & Culture
  • Paul Foster, Ontario Seniors' Secretariat, Ministry of Tourism & Culture
  • Ellen Waxman, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Ministry of Community & Social Services
  • Kent Bassett-Spiers, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation
  • Sandy Keshen, Reena
  • Nell Bailey, RESNA
  • Dr. Deb Fels, Research and Innovation, Ryerson University
  • Judith Shamian, VON
  • Jane MacDonald, VON
  • Len Wechsler, Finance Committee Chair
  • Mary Frances Laughton, Operations Committee Co-chair
  • Dayle Levine, Operations Committee Co-chair Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
  • Helen Gurlesky, FICCDAT Coordinator

Visit to learn more about FICCDAT and the six international conferences.

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