North experts bring ageing expertise to Canada

North healthy ageing experts are travelling to Toronto as part of an NHSA-led delegation

19th February 2020

Top ageing experts from the North of England are heading to Toronto following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in Philadelphia last year.

Establishing research links with countries across the globe is a priority for the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) post-Brexit.

The North is world-leading in ageing and the NHSA-led delegation will be joined by the UK government’s leads in Healthy Ageing, George MacGinnis and Cynthia Bullock.

In March, experts from 10 organisations will form a delegation travelling to Toronto for a working week that will take in the Rotman Research Institute Conference – Aging and Brain Health: Mental Health and Well-being (9 – 10 March) and ‘What’s Next Canada’ Innovation Day (11 March).

The events attract global researchers from a wide range of fields in health and social sciences to discuss the latest findings and emerging perspectives on mental health and well-being across the lifespan.

The organisations travelling from the UK will have the opportunity to build strong ties with Canadian healthy ageing experts and open doors to shared learning and the potential to create research partnerships.

As an alliance that brings together leading northern universities, research-intensive NHS trusts and Academic Health Science Networks, the NHSA-led delegation includes academics and clinicians from the North of England with expertise in the healthy ageing field. This includes representation from University of Manchester, the Innovation Agency, Durham University, University of Sheffield, Lancaster University, Yorkshire and Humber AHSN, University of Central Lancashire and University of Liverpool.

The NHSA has developed a robust network of Canadian healthy ageing experts following the signing of the MoU last summer, and this trip will further embed the shared vision between the North of England and Canada.

The MoU brings together a range of Canadian organisations with a group of member institutions and stakeholders of the NHSA to form the Canadian and Northern England Multi-Organisation Collaboration on Healthy Ageing, which aims to drive knowledge exchange, innovation and support research collaboration.

Professor Nicola Wilson, the NHSA’s Deputy Chief Executive, said: “The North of England is home to world-class universities, research institutes, academics, clinicians and researchers that are excelling within the field of healthy ageing and our counterparts in Canada are undertaking equally ground-breaking work in this area that is exciting to see.

This outward mission, and the continued work through the MoU, offers a rare opportunity to bring these two pioneering forces together to generate cross-country collaboration that could make a real impact on people’s lives as they age.

“We’re delighted to have such an esteemed group of healthy ageing experts joining the NHSA delegation and we’re looking forward to telling the North’s story in Canada. We’re excited to explore how, together, we can learn, develop and collaborate to tackle one of the biggest global challenges of our time.”

Healthy ageing has been identified as one of the UK Industrial Strategy’s Grand Challenges. George MacGinnis leads the £98 million research and innovation programme supporting the UK Government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge. This is to ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.

George, Challenge Director, Healthy Ageing, at UK Research and Innovation, said: “We’re entering a new era of ageing, with the prospect of living to a ripe old age of 100 becoming the norm. How we can make our latter years more active, productive and enjoyable is the challenge facing our global community. And countries across the world are responding in creative and innovative ways.

“In the UK, we’ve set ambitious goals in the Healthy Ageing Challenge and we know our response to tackling our ageing society will be enriched and enhanced by international collaboration. I’m looking forward to strengthening our ties with the brightest and best minds in ageing research from the North of England and Canada.”

Professor Amanda Ellison, Executive Director, Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing, Durham University, said: “The Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing at Durham University works to shine an interdisciplinary light on the issue of healthy ageing, from our shifting physiology through changes in our behaviours, beliefs and social situations.

“Only through working together can we arrive at evidence-based mitigations that are truly personalised, ensuring we help all of the people, all of the time. Working together with Northern universities and healthcare trusts and innovation bodies via the NHSA allows us more scope to do this. By sharing the experience of this delegation with that of our colleagues working in Canadian health, we hope to illuminate a prescient pathway to progress, one that will lead to a step-change in how we approach this multifaceted issue of healthy ageing.”

Mel Barsky, Director, Business Development at the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), said: “The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation takes research and novel innovations and accelerates the best and brightest solutions in aging and brain health with the mission to enhance the lives of older adults, people living with dementia, and their caregivers worldwide.

“We’re excited to host this esteemed NHSA-led delegation from the UK to join us in Canada and, through vital cross-country collaboration, share best practices and promote the most promising innovations from both sides of the pond to realise our shared vision of a healthy and dignified ageing experience for seniors around the world.”

Dr Séamus O’Neill, Chief Executive at the NHSA, added: “The NHSA works closely with its members to encourage and develop solutions and innovations to support an ageing population. We have some truly transformative work taking place within our region but there is always scope to learn from others. Our UK delegation to Canada will provide a platform for Northern organisations to see first-hand how international peers are addressing ageing and to lay the groundwork for future research collaborations.”

During the week-long visit, the delegation will also visit world-class research environments and facilities in Toronto, such as the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) and AGE-WELL, where they will meet with leading Canadian ageing experts to share knowledge and take part in roundtable and workshop activity set to tackle mutual challenges in healthy ageing.

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