Major investment renews national research platform on aging

August 17, 2021

Originally published on SFU News.

Simon Fraser University researchers will be among those from across Canada benefiting from the federal government’s $61.5 million investment the next phase of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA).

The funds, announced Aug. 13, include $52 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to ensure researchers have ongoing and timely access to a world-class data platform focused on health and aging. It also includes $9.5 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The funds support research activities at SFU as one of several participating institutions across Canada, ensuring data collection from CLSA participants continues until 2027.

The investment also supports the introduction of several new or expanded assessments in the areas of sexual health, mobility, vision, sense of smell and health-care experiences.

Launched in 2010, the CLSA is Canada’s largest study of aging, following more than 50,000 individuals who were between the ages of 45 and 85 at recruitment, for 20 years.

The CLSA collects information on the changing biological, medical, psychological, social, lifestyle and economic aspects of individual’s lives. These aspects are studied to understand how–individually and in combination–they have an impact in both maintaining health and in the development of disease and disability as people age.

The initiative is led by McMaster University, McGill University and Dalhousie University, with support from numerous site leads, including SFU.

"This significant funding from CIHR and CFI will allow us to continue collecting data comprising the world-renowned Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging research platform,” says site lead and Professor Andrew Wister, director of SFU’s Gerontology Research Centre. “The CLSA supports cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in health and aging that is filling knowledge gaps and directing public policy to enhance the lives of current and future generations of older Canadians."

The funding renewal marks the third investment from CIHR, which has previously provided $73.1 million to support recruitment and the baseline assessment and two follow-up waves of data collection.

In addition, earlier this year the federal government announced $9.5 million for renewal of the CLSA’s research platform infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The new funding will provide support for two additional follow-ups, the first of which will launch this summer.

Earlier funding is also enabling researchers to upgrade the infrastructure currently used at the two SFU-affiliated CLSA data collection sites, at the Vancouver and Surrey campuses, and incorporate new equipment to collect data that aligns with emerging science in aging research.

Data collection is expected to continue at both SFU sites this fall. SFU researchers will be involved in collecting measures related to those supported by the latest investment, which include:

  • Wearable technology to capture data on physical activity, sedentary behaviour, mobility and sleep
  • A new vision contrast sensitivity test that will provide data to understand the link between changes in vision and aging
  • A new assessment of olfactory function, or sense of smell. Research suggests loss of smell may be an early warning sign of certain neurological conditions including cognitive impairment
  • Questions about sexual health and aging to improve research capacity in this area
  • 3D analysis of gait speed, or how a person walks, which has been shown to be associated with changes to the brain and adverse events such as falls

Since 2015, more than 340 research teams in Canada and around the world have accessed the CLSA data and have generated more than 150 peer-reviewed publications. Nationally representative data from the CLSA are also included in the Baseline Report for the World Health Organization’s Decade of Healthy Ageing, which runs from 2021 until 2030.

The next application deadline to access the CLSA data is September 8, 2021. For more information on how to apply, visit