Screening Older Adults to Return to Work

October 2, 2018

Two big trends are likely to change the labour market and how we work in the 21st century: an ageing workforce and the increased digitization of work. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of Canadian workers over the age of 65 grew by 100,000. At the same time, workplaces – and society in general – have become dominated by screens, specifically computer screens.

The challenge that the combination of these two trends pose to employees and employers is not that older workers will not be able to adapt to changing technologies. It’s that older adults typically take longer to recover from brain injuries, concussions and migraines, which can preclude them from optimizing their work performance and restrict them from engaging with digital social communications tools – both of which are often done in front of a screen.

Internet usage is growing fastest among older Canadians. Canadians aged 45 and older increased internet usage substantially in the few short years from 2013 to 2016, according to Statistics Canada. The increase is particularly notable among 65- to 74-year-olds, which saw an increase from 65% to 81%. For the oldest group of Canadians – those aged 75 and over - internet usage increased from 35% in 2013 to 50% in 2016.

Fortunately for employers and older workers, Iris Technologies is facing this societal challenge head on. It is a health innovation start-up housed at the Biomedical Zone, which is a unique partnership between Ryerson University and St. Michael's Hospital. The Biomedical Zone is a start-up incubator and innovation hub that helps early-stage health technology companies to validate their need-based solutions directly in the hospital setting with clinicians, business experts and innovative thinkers.

As a start-up founded in 2015, Iris Technologies is focused on shortening the journey from a concussion back to a normal life. It has launched the Iris Monitor, the world’s first computer monitor clinically proven to help concussion patients reduce the painful symptoms of light sensitivity when using a computer.

The patent-pending, research-backed E-paper secondary monitor reduces the negative health repercussions of using standard LCD screens for individuals recovering from a concussion. The screen works concurrently with or as a substitute to an LCD screen. Since it is not backlit, the monitor reduces the number and severity of concussion symptoms triggered while using a computer. “Overcoming the obstacle of computer intolerance means users can reconnect with the world and return to work or school much sooner”, according to Iris Technologies.

This kind of technology will support older workers who may suffer a concussion, as well as chronic migraines or eyestrain from computer use, to return to work much faster and stay connected with their peers and community through digital platforms.

The National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is a university-based think tank focused on leading cross-disciplinary research, thought leadership, innovative solutions, policies, and products on ageing. The NIA’s mission is to help governments, health care systems, pension plans, businesses, and Canadian families to best meet the challenges and opportunities posed to ageing Canadians and by an ageing demographic. Follow us on Twitter and sign up for our mailing list.

By Allan McKee, Communications Officer, National Institute on Ageing | Email:

Allan McKee