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Major investment renews national research platform on aging

Posted by Jason Bremner with files from the CLSA on August 13, 2021 in News
Launched in 2010, the CLSA is Canada’s largest study of aging, following more than 50,000 individuals.
Launched in 2010, the CLSA is Canada’s largest study of aging, following more than 50,000 individuals.

The Government of Canada is investing $61.5 million in the next phase of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA).

The funds 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 $52 million supports research activities at Dalhousie University and all the participating institutions across Canada to ensure the collection of data from CLSA participants 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 platform is led by Lead Principal Investigator Dr. Parminder Raina of McMaster University and Principal Investigators Dr. Christina Wolfson of McGill University and Dr. Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University. The CLSA is supported by a national team of researchers who lead CLSA sites at Memorial University, Université de Sherbrooke, Bruyère Research Institute/University of Ottawa, University of Manitoba, University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria.

“The success of the CLSA is a result of the dedication of the many investigators who have contributed to its design and implementation, and the entire research team of staff across the country who keep the platform running,” said Dr. Kirkland. “The CLSA could not exist without the CLSA participants, who see its value and return for follow up visits to share their aging journey with us. We are grateful that CIHR and CFI continue to support the CLSA as a resource to the research community and to all Canadians. It is an honour to lead this initiative with my colleagues Dr. Parminder Raina and Dr. Christina Wolfson.”

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.

“Over the last decade, the CLSA has established itself as one of the largest, most comprehensive research platforms on aging in the world,” said Raina, a professor of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster and the scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging.

“We are grateful to the Government of Canada for its ongoing support. This investment paves the way for researchers in Canada and around the world to have ongoing access to high-quality data that will yield critical insights into the aging process.”

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.

CLSA data collection activities that will be supported by the investment 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

The next application deadline to access the CLSA data is September 8, 2021. For more information on how to apply, visit www.clsa-elcv.ca/data-access.