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Date: April 10, 2012

National Aging Study Launches in B.C.

To help better understand the aging process, British Columbians are being invited to participate in the largest study of aging ever undertaken in Canada.

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) will follow 50,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85 for 20 years. The national study, which has sites at Simon Fraser University (SFU), the University of British Columbia (UBC)/Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and the University of Victoria (UVic)/Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), will collect information on the changing biological, medical, psychological, social, lifestyle and economic aspects of people’s lives as they age.

“Our goal is to enrol roughly 8,500 participants from British Columbia who will help us to understand the aging process and the factors that shape healthy aging,” said Andrew Wister, chair and professor in the Department of Gerontology at Simon Fraser University, associate director of the Gerontology Research Centre, and lead site investigator for the CLSA at SFU Surrey.

In March, the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging began to call randomly selected residents from across the province inviting them to participate in the study. Information packages will be mailed to interested respondents this month. The CLSA is also working with the provincial Ministry of Health towards a recruitment partnership.

Coinciding with the launch of recruitment, a public forum – Advancing our Knowledge of Healthy Aging – will be held April 25. The event, which runs 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the Paetzold Health Education Auditorium at the Vancouver General Hospital, features several CLSA researchers and will serve as an introduction to the study.

“This is a great opportunity for the public to come out and hear about the benefits of this research. With the help of British Columbians, we will be able to answer critical questions about aging that will lead to improvements in health and quality of life,” said Max Cynader, director of the Brain Research Centre and the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia. He is also the lead site investigator for the CLSA at UBC/VCH Vancouver and a co-lead for the CLSA Genetics and Epigenetics Centre at UBC's Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics.

There are two ways to participate in the CLSA. Some participants take part in a telephone interview while others participate in a home interview and a visit to a data collection site in their area. Data collection sites will open at SFU’s Surrey Campus and UVic this spring. The UBC/Vancouver Coastal Health site will be ready in 2013.

At the University of Victoria, Margaret Penning, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Centre on Aging, is the lead site investigator for the CLSA. Holly Tuokko is the theme leader of the psychology working group for the CLSA.

“One of the unique features of the CLSA is its evaluation of psychological health in combination with detailed biological, medical and sociological information,” said Tuokko, a professor of psychology at UVic and director of its Centre on Aging. “The study will examine everything from everyday competence to social networks to how we adapt to the changes that come with aging.”

The demographics in British Columbia are changing now that baby boomers are entering their retirement years. In 2010, Statistics Canada reported that 675,500 people in B.C. were aged 65 or older. By 2031, that number is expected to more than double to nearly 1.4 million.

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, cognitive and 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.

Interviews and data collection visits take place every three years, with a follow-up call midway between to maintain contact. By committing an hour for a telephone interview or a couple of 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 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.

For more information, please visit www.clsa-elcv.ca.

Media contacts:

Laura Thompson                        
CLSA Communications Officer
McMaster University
(905) 525-9140, ext. 21413

Andrew Wister
Chair, Department of Gerontology
Simon Fraser University
(778) 782-5044

Holly Tuokko
Director, Centre on Aging
University of Victoria
(250) 721-6350

Erica Foster (for interviews with Max Cynader)
Acting Communications Manager
Brain Research Centre
(604) 827-3396 

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