News / Halifax

Dalhousie plays key role in national aging study

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Researchers across the globe will be examining 75 year-old Elaine Tolley’s life for decades to come.

Tolley is among 1,400 Nova Scotians who participated in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), which will gather data from people between the ages of 45 to 85 over the next 20 years.

“It’s great, it’s like one big check-up,” said Tolley at the CLSA open house on Morris Street Wednesday.

Tolley said she jumped at the chance after receiving a letter in the mail asking if she would participate in the study, led by researchers from Dalhousie, McGill and McMaster universities.

“It’s quite exciting, really,” Tolley said.  “It’s a lovely study and I think we really should do everything we can to age graciously ... It’s such a hard process, aging.”

Dr. Susan Kirkland, co-principal investigator of the study and Dalhousie professor, said she was surprised by how interested the general public isin the research.

“It really resonates with people, so it’s really rewarding to see that,” Kirkland said. “Aging is something we all do, and it’s not something you want to do poorly.”

Kirkland said the study is interesting because it focuses on healthy and successful ways to age, rather than disease and disability.

Halifax participants go through a three-hour session at the Dalhousie data collection site where tests on blood pressure, heart tracing, eyesight, bone density and other indicators are performed.

“They did cognitive tests which were really quite fun, it was like playing games,” Tolley said about an exercise where she had to watch for a time on the clock, then grab a container and sort out money.

Tolley will go through an interview and tests every three years, even if she moves from Halifax, said Kirkland.

Researchers can eventually use the information to study what affects how we age, why some stay healthy and others don’t, or identify new ways to prevent diseases and improve health services.

The study, which will take 20 years to complete, will involve 50,000 men and women and 160 researchers at 26 institutions across Canada.

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