Canada is experiencing an unprecedented change in the make-up of its population, with seniors accounting for nearly 15 per cent of all Canadians. By 2036, nearly one in four Canadians will be age 65 or older. With rapid demographic change underway, there is a critical need for high-quality research on aging as well as strong evidence to support the development or improvement of programs, services, policies and care.
Enter the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, which will follow 50,000 men and women aged 45 to 85 over the next 20 years. Along the way, the CLSA will collect information on physical, psychological and social health functioning of participants, and allow for the dynamic process of aging and adult development to be better understood.
The CLSA has come at an important time and will help shape health and social policy decision-making that is directed towards improving the health and well-being of Canada’s seniors.
“The CLSA holds the potential not only to inform disease and longevity outcomes, but also to contribute to informed decision making with respect to health-care delivery, independent living and autonomy for seniors,” said Susan Kirkland, co-principal investigator of the study and a professor at Dalhousie University.
Since the last CLSA update for CARP, the study has made significant progress. To date, more than 23,000 participants across the country have taken part. Data collection occurs every three years, with a short follow-up interview midway between to maintain contact. To participate, individuals must receive an invitation from the study team, either by phone or through the mail.
There are two ways to take part in the CLSA. Of the 50,000 participants, 20,000 will provide information through hour-long telephone interviews, while the remaining 30,000 will take part in at-home interviews and visits to local data collection sites. Nationally, there are 11 CLSA data collection sites, located in Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, Sherbrooke, Halifax and St. John’s.
Participants who visit data collection sites have cognitive and physical assessments completed, including height and weight measurements; vision and hearing tests; blood pressure and cardiovascular measures; a bone density scan and strength and balance tests. They are also given the option of providing blood and urine samples which will be used to study the genetics of healthy aging.
“We’re looking at the aging process from cell to society,” said Parminder Raina, lead principal investigator of the CLSA and a professor at McMaster University. “We want to understand not only how we can live longer, but also live better. That means with the quality of life that allows us to function properly and independently and stay in our homes and communities as long as possible.”
Data collected as part of the CLSA will be managed and stored at McMaster University. The CLSA’s Statistical Analysis Centre (SAC) in Montreal, the analytic nexus of the CLSA, is also responsible for secure data storage, data management and data preparation for approved researchers.
“A fundamental principle of the CLSA is that data be made available to the research community as soon as it is feasible while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of participants,” said Christina Wolfson, co-principal investigator of the CLSA and a professor at McGill University. “Our goal is to have the first wave of telephone interview data available by the end of 2013.”
The CLSA involves a team of more than 160 researchers and collaborators across the country. Funding for the study has been provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
“The CLSA is more than a study,” said Yves Joanette, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Aging. “It represents a unique platform that will be used by researchers from all disciplines and fields for decades to come thanks to the range of information that will be gathered and analyzed.”
The importance of the research has also resonated with participants, including Elaine Tolley of Nova Scotia.
“It’s quite exciting, really,” Tolley told Metro News in January 2013. “It’s a lovely study and I think we really should do everything we can to age graciously…”
For more information, visit the CLSA website at www.clsa-elcv.ca.
Submitted by the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging