A national study following 50,000 people over two decades promises to shed new light on how to age well.
That’s what Debra Sheets and Lynne Young from the University of Victoria’s school of nursing are aiming for through their involvement in the study, which began in August 2012. UVic is one of 11 sites across the country gathering data for the ambitious project, called the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.
“We’re going to learn a lot about aging, and it’s a good time because the age wave is upon us,” said Sheets. “By 2030, the population of older people is doubling and the health system struggling with it.
“It’s just a comprehensive study and it’s so timely. The focus is really on ‘How can we help people to age well?’ ”
Sheets pointed to research that concluded about 70 per cent of aging well is linked to lifestyle and environment.
“People like to say ‘My parents lived a long time so I will,’ but only 30 per cent is genetics, so there is a lot we can control.”
The gathering of genetic information is a unique facet of the study, she said.
Sheets and Young will give a joint presentation on the study Wednesday as UVic’s annual IdeaFest turns to the multifaceted topic of aging. Theirs is one of seven presentations scheduled to run from 4-6:30 p.m. at the University Club dining hall, with each presentation lasting from five to eight minutes.
The series of talks is organized by UVic’s Centre on Aging and sponsored by the Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation.
Also on Wednesday’s roster are sessions that look at long-term care facilities, end-of-life care and dementia.
IdeaFest talks are geared to anybody, said Vincenza Grupposo, research co-ordinator at the Centre on Aging.
“You’ll have the researchers there, you’ll have an opportunity to listen to them present their information in clear language and start a dialogue.”
Grupposo said getting people together to share ideas is important.
“My ultimate goal in all of this is to break down silos,” she said. “I think the only way to really start that is by putting people in the same room listening to different conversations.
“Researchers have something to share with you. Community members have something to share with you.”
Grupposo said the longitudinal study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will look at social, psychological and medical changes in participants between the ages of 45 and 85, checking in every three years.
“There is no 65, clicking this little switch and we’ll be old then.”
Sheets said 30,000 of the 50,000 people involved in the study will be given comprehensive assessments — 3,000 of them through UVic. Currently, UVic researchers are looking particularly for men in the 45- to 55-year-old age range.
People can’t apply, but might be called as part of the recruitment process.
“We’re sending out a mailing right now through the Ministry of Health to try to do our final recruitment effort,” Sheets said.
To attend Wednesday’s presentations, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-721-6369. Refreshments will be served.