SFU gerontology professor Andrew Wister co-leads a new study that will shed light on the impacts of COVID-19 and aging.

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National health and aging study to include COVID-19 insights

May 04, 2020
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Simon Fraser University researchers are contributing to a new study, drawing on data from a national health and aging research initiative, to provide new insights into the impacts of COVID-19 on aging populations. The collaborative research project involves 11 universities across 10 provinces and is co-led by SFU gerontology professor Andrew Wister, working with a team from SFU’s Gerontology Research Centre.

The COVID-19 study will draw on the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), which has since 2013 involved more than 50,000 participants between 45 and 85 years of age from across Canada. Over the next six months, researchers will collect weekly and monthly data from its participants through online and telephone surveys to gain a comprehensive picture of the spread and impact of the pandemic.

Researchers will use their rich cache of CLSA data to assess factors that appear to protect against or increase the risk of symptom development.

In addition to data on health and well-being, researchers will gather information on health behaviours, such as social distancing and handwashing, workplace and economic impacts, as well as travel history.

SFU researchers are involved in collecting data for BC CLSA participants, and translating the data into knowledge and practice. “The SFU CLSA research cluster is interested in how and why some individuals (both with and without the disease) bounce back from COVID-19 adversities better than others—or so-called COVID-19 resilience,” says Wister.

Wister says the most vulnerable older adults during this pandemic are those living in congregate living environments, including long-term care, supportive housing or assisted living.

“Many seniors living in the community also face severe challenges meeting their basic needs, such as shopping for food, medications, and personal health care,” he says. “Those at particular risk are older adults with physical or mental health challenges, mobility restrictions, caregivers, those living alone, the poor, and those experiencing social isolation at high levels.

"Given physical distancing, social isolation and its intersection with resilience processes are of primary importance for older adults to maximize their health and well-being during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Funding for the CLSA COVID-19 study has been provided by the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA), McMaster University and Juravinski Research Institute through a new gift earlier this month for research on the pandemic from Hamilton philanthropists Charles and Margaret Juravinski.

The CLSA is a major strategic initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Funding for the platform has been provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Additional support has been provided by several provinces, affiliated universities and research institutions across Canada.

For more information on the CLSA COVID-19 study, visit: www.clsa-elcv.ca/coronavirus