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Learning how COVID has affected seniors

How does a pandemic affect the physical and psychological health of adults as they age? Does COVID-19 have an impact on the delivery of regular health-care services? Does a COVID-19 infection lead to long-term health problems affecting the lungs or brain?

These are just a few of the questions a new study being launched by McMaster University hopes to answer. The collaborative nation-wide research project, involving  more than 10 institutions, will examine the experiences of older adults during the coronavirus pandemic, exploring how they cope, the impacts on their physical and mental health, and changes to how they access health-care services.

The COVID-19 study is being conducted by the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), a national research platform on health and aging involving more than 50,000 participants across 10 provinces. The CLSA is led by lead principal investigator Parminder Raina of McMaster University, and co-principal investigators Christina Wolfson of McGill University and Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University, along with a national team of researchers.

“By using the rich data from the CLSA to study COVID-19, we can assess which factors appear to protect against or increase the risk of developing symptoms,” said Raina, a professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster and the scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging.

“This offers a unique opportunity to understand why some individuals develop severe disease while others remain asymptomatic despite being infected by the virus.”

Over the next six months, the CLSA COVID-19 study 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.

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

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.

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