A Canadian Study for the Ages on Aging

September 9th 2010

CARP was recently contacted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) about a groundbreaking multi-year study on aging in Canada that will be conducted under the aegis of the Institute. The CIHR plans to work with CARP and other organizations to inform Canadians about the progress of the study and the discoveries made throughout the timeframe.

What follows is a brief synopsis of the goals and framework for the study prepared by the CIHR. For further information about the study please contact:
email: [email protected]
Toll-free: 1-866-999-8303

Every day it seems that there is another media story about Canada’s aging population and how it is going to affect future legislation and services. Population projections show that in 2031, 25% of the Canadian population will be aged 65 and over and the proportion of the oldest seniors (80 years and over) will increase sharply. Many in the large baby-boom generation will soon be experiencing transition from work to retirement.

Last year, funding for a groundbreaking study called the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) was announced by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This study, the first of its scope and size in Canada and the world, is lead by Dr. Parminder Raina from McMaster University along with Drs. Christina Wolfson and Susan Kirkland from McGill and Dalhousie Universities, respectively. They have assembled a team of over 160 experts in biomedical, clinical, psychology, health services, population health, ethics, law and social sciences. The study focuses on adult development and aging amongst individuals who belong to diverse communities across the country.

The study, lasting 20 years and involving 50,000 participants aged 45 to 85, covers all aspects of aging – from genetic to psychological to social. Dr. Réjean Hébert, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de Sherbrooke who, as inaugural Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging, played an instrumental role in promoting the need for such a study and enabling its realization by supporting the research community. “By including people at mid-life, well under age 65, this initiative will give researchers unique insight into the earlier factors that influence aging. It’s the only initiative of its kind with these characteristics. This also gives it international significance. More than 70 longitudinal studies have taken place worldwide and most focused on only one age-related condition or on the older age range only, people over 65 years of age,” he said. Through the efforts of Dr. Raina and the CLSA Research Team, the study is generating lots of international interest in this era of global aging.

Dr. Hébert emphasises that the study will improve our understanding of the role that food, physical activity, the environment, genetics and socio-economic factors play in aging. As well, part of CLSA’s plan is to link data from participants to their usage of health services and environmental databases, which will give policymakers extremely rich information for future planning.

Dr. Anne Martin-Matthews, current Scientific Director for the Institute of Aging at CIHR, said, “Aging is a reality for all Canadians. Still, very little is known about how and why we age the way we do. The CLSA brings together the capacity, knowledge and expertise to unlock some of the greatest mysteries of aging and the maintenance of health over time.”