Professor Andrew Wister, director of SFU's Gerontology Research Centre, leads one of 25 research teams to benefit from new CIHR funding.

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Study targets resiliency among aging Canadians with multiple illnesses

May 30, 2017
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Simon Fraser University researchers are investigating why some older Canadians living with multiple chronic health conditions maintain their resiliency.

Professor Andrew Wister, director of SFU’s Gerontology Research Centre, is SFU’s principal investigator for the multi-university Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). He leads one of 25 research teams benefiting from a share of $1.7 million in CLSA catalyst grants, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), announced today.

Multimorbidity is a condition in which two or more concurrent chronic diseases have been diagnosed. It afflicts approximately two-thirds of seniors aged 65 and older.

“It’s an intriguing question, why some individuals adapt to the adversity associated with the presence of multimorbidity better than others,” says Wister, who is immediate past chair of the National Seniors Research Council of Canada. He is recognized internationally as an expert on aging research.

The SFU team will identify factors associated with areas of physical disability and daily living function, social isolation and community participation, and psychological distress, depression and life satisfaction.

“Recognizing the causes and consequences of multimorbidity resilience will help us understand how older people with more than one chronic illness age well in the face of illness complications—and address the implications for health care,” says Wister.

The researchers will focus on identifying factors that promote positive aging under these illness conditions. Wister says a better understanding of how people cope with illness later in life and adapt to these circumstances will lead to improved solutions for independent living among those dealing with multimorbidity.

Canada’s population is aging rapidly as baby boomers move into their elder years and longevity continues to increase. The proportion of Canadians aged 65 and over is projected to increase from 16.9 per cent to 23 per cent by 2031, or nearly one in four people.

The CLSA began in 2012 as the most comprehensive study of its kind, following more than 50,000 Canadians aged between 45 and 85 at recruitment. They are being followed for 20 years. The study’s aim is to determine factors that support healthy aging.

The CIHR has invested more than $65 million in the CLSA to date. An additional $36.5 million has been invested by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, provincial governments, universities and other partners.