By: Ilia Ostrovski
Medical advances are continuing to push the boundary of how long the average person should expect to live. This trend of increasing life expectancy underscores the importance of measuring quality of life as individuals age.
With this issue in mind, three Canadian researchers submitted a joint proposal to the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) to launch one of the largest clinical explorations of the topic to date. In November 2001, their proposal was accepted. On Sept. 28, after eleven years of planning, the study’s lead principal investigator, Parminder Raina of McMaster, finally announced the official grand opening of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA).
Raina is the director of McMaster’s Evidence-based Practice Center and specializes in clinical epidemiology and biostatistics. His area of interests is the epidemiology of aging, injury and knowledge transfer. Before the launch of CLSA, Raina was the lead investigator for the Hamilton site of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, which explored the epidemiology of dementia. Currently, he holds the Raymond and Margaret Labarge Chair in Research and Knowledge Application for Optimal Aging.
Raina was joined in the celebration by some of the 160 researchers from all across the country who are collaborating on this innovative project. The study’s co-principal investigators are Christina Wolfson from McGill University and Susan Kirkland from Dalhousie University. This study will collect data from 50,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85 and will continue to follow up with its subjects for at least 20 years.
Unlike previous longitudinal studies on similar topics, CLSA will take a multi-faceted approach to examining the aging process. By analyzing the gradual change of psychological, social, medical and biological parameters, the investigators hope to address a breadth of important issues concerning the maintenance of good health in the latter years of life.
CLSA will use 11 data collection sites, four telephone interview centres and three data analysis facilities across the country. The McMaster Innovation Park is one of CLSA’s particularly prominent facilities. It houses the study’s National Coordinating center, the Bioanalysis and Biorepository Center and the McMaster Data Collection Site.
“The CLSA is more than a study,” said Yves Joanette, the Scientific Director of CIHR’s 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.”