issues and experts

SFU experts: Seniors and tech poll, $4 million for national aging COVID-19 study

October 01, 2020

SFU gerontology professor Andrew Sixsmith is available to discuss findings of a poll which shows technology use among seniors is on the rise, both as a means of staying connected and maintaining health.

Sixsmith is the co-scientific director for AGE-WELL NCE, Canada’s aging and technology network. AGE-WELL’s poll, conducted by Environics Research, focused on how seniors are using technology during the pandemic. In addition to staying connected with loved ones, it found they are increasingly learning to use technology to access healthcare services remotely.

Key poll results:

• 88 per cent of Canadians aged 65+ use the Internet daily
• 65 per cent of Canadians aged 65 and older own a smartphone compared to 58 per cent in 2019 and 83 per cent who own one use it everyday
• 23 per cent of Canadians 65+ now use video-calling on their smartphones, twice as many as in 2019; 6 in 10 of whom report increased use due to COVID-19.

The poll also revealed that half of the respondents aged 50+ are now more concerned about health and losing loved ones, and nearly half are significantly or somewhat more concerned about moving to a nursing or retirement home.

$4 million launches national study on COVID-19 antibodies in older adults

SFU gerontology professor Andrew Wister can comment on a new study to be carried out by the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), supported by Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and $4 million in funding.

The study will investigate the burden of SARS-CoV-2 infection among aging Canadians, a population that has been known to be at greatest risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19. It will collect and analyze blood samples from more than 19,000 CLSA participants and survey their symptoms, risks factors, health-care use, and the psychosocial and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Linking the results about the presence of antibodies and other immune markers from the blood sample analyses and questionnaire findings will paint a more comprehensive picture of the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 and the impact of COVID-19 among older adults in Canada, the researchers say.

"The COVID-19 global crisis has spread rapidly, with multiple waves of infection, and has resulted in unprecedented social change and challenges in terms of public health, health and continuing care systems, economies, communities, and families,” says Wister, the CLSA lead at SFU, which has hosted a number of data collection sites since the initiative began in 2010. 

“The CLSA COVID-19 longitudinal survey currently in the field, and the announced sero-prevalence study, will provide important new information and fill knowledge gaps needed to successfully mitigate, adapt and respond to what I call a 'gero-pandemic,’ given its heightened risk and deleterious outcomes for older people in Canadian society.”

The CLSA is being led by McMaster University and involves more than 10 academic and hospital research sites, including SFU. The 20-year research initiative is collecting data from 50,000 older individuals from across Canada. 


ANDREW SIXSMITH, professor, gerontology            

ANDREW WISTER, professor, gerontology                    
604.671.7651 |


MELISSA SHAW, SFU Communications & Marketing 
236.880.3297 |

About Simon Fraser University: 

As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change. We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties that deliver 193 undergraduate degree programs and 127 graduate degree programs to more than 35,000 students. The university now boasts more than 160,000 alumni residing in 143 countries.