SFU professor Angela Brooks-Wilson has spent the past 16 years studying the lifestyles and genetics of super seniors across Canada.

Faculty and Staff

President's Lecture examines longevity of 'super seniors'

March 12, 2018

By Diane Luckow

Why do some people live long and healthy lives without developing any of the five biggest killer diseases: cancer, dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or major lung disease?

SFU cancer researcher Angela Brooks-Wilson was curious enough to try to find out. Sixteen years ago she began a Healthy Aging Study that has so far investigated the health and lifestyles of 700 exceptionally healthy “super seniors” aged 85 and older across Canada who have never been diagnosed with these five diseases. The oldest super senior? An amazing 109 years old. Plans for the next phase of research are underway.

“These diseases are the big five responsible for a lot of chronic illness and the greatest amount of expense to the healthcare system,” says Brooks-Wilson, who chairs SFU’s Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology. She is also a Distinguished Scientist with Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the BC Cancer Agency.

Now, she’s sharing some of her study's discoveries as part of the SFU President’s Faculty Lecture Series on Thursday, March 15, 5:00 pm at the Diamond Alumni Centre, Burnaby campus.

Though Brooks-Wilson’s study is focused on genetics, her team also gleaned details about super senior lifestyles, revealing that:

  • Most do drink alcohol, but only moderately
  • About half are ex-smokers who quit long ago
  •  They range from slim to obese
  • Some have experienced very stressful life events

The presentation will also include genetic findings about these super seniors.

Brooks-Wilson is trying to recruit a further 700 people aged 85 or older, regardless of their health status, to apply the same study protocols to this group and then compare them to the super seniors.

Anyone aged 85 or older who interested in participating may call 604-675-8151, or email studycoordinator@bcgsc.ca.