As the province with the highest proportion of seniors in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador will play a key role in a new national study of aging getting underway at Memorial University.
The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) will follow 50,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85 for at least 20 years. The national study, which has a research site at Memorial, will collect information on the changing biological, medical, psychological, social, lifestyle and economic aspects of people’s lives as they age.
“We are inviting 4,200 people in Newfoundland to join the study and contribute their time to helping us understand the factors that shape healthy aging,” said Dr. Gerry Mugford, lead investigator of the CLSA in Newfoundland and Labrador and an associate professor with Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine in the Discipline of Medicine and Discipline of Psychiatry.
“With the generous help of Newfoundlanders, CLSA researchers will be able to answer critical questions on aging, which will translate into improvements in health and quality of life.”
Participation in the CLSA involves two different groups. Some people will be contacted for a telephone interview, while others will take part in a home
interview and a visit to a data collection site at Memorial (located in the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s).
To ensure study enrolment is representative of the Canadian population, CLSA researchers are working with provincial health ministries to randomly select participants. People between the ages of 45 and 85 are being invited to take part.
This month, roughly 3,700 information packages were mailed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information on behalf of the CLSA to residents requesting their consent to be contacted. CLSA interviewers will now begin to call interested respondents to seek their participation in the study.
CLSA participants are asked questions about their health and well-being, including physical, social and emotional functioning, lifestyle and behaviours, as well as the onset of health conditions and diseases.
At data collection sites across the country, physical assessments are taken, including height and weight; vision and hearing tests; blood pressure and cardiovascular measures; a bone density scan and strength and balance tests. Participants also take part in memory tests.
Interviews and data collection visits take place every three years, with a followup call midway between to maintain contact. By committing an hour for a telephone interview or a couple hours for a visit to a data collection site, participants will help to improve the health and well-being of current and future generations, changing the way people live and approach growing older.
“The CLSA represents a unique platform that will be used by researchers from all disciplines and fields, and that has the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of biological, psychological and social determinants of active and healthy aging for the benefit of all Canadians,” said Yves Joanette, scientific director of CIHR's Institute of Aging (CIHR-IA).
The demographics in Newfoundland are changing now that baby boomers are entering their retirement years. In 2010 Statistics Canada reported that 77,900 people in Newfoundland and Labrador were aged 65 or older. By 2031 that number is expected to increase to 152,400 people, meaning that nearly a third of the population will be age 65 or older.
The CLSA involves a team of more than 160 researchers and collaborators across the country, including lead principal investigator Parminder Raina of McMaster University and co-principal investigators Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University and Christina Wolfson of McGill University.
The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging is a strategic initiative of Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Overall support for the study has been provided by the Government of Canada through the CIHR and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.