EDITORIAL: Study is critical for aging society

Victoria's Gorge Road Hospital part of national study on aging

Relatively safe and without the winter deep-freeze of the rest of Canada, Greater Victoria has long been a haven for retirees and senior citizens.

Census data released last year confirmed the numbers are holding strong among those reaching their golden years – more than a quarter of the region’s residents are 65 and older.

On the heels of those already considered seniors, the expected large number of baby boomers entering retirement age is a phenomenon being referred to as the “grey wave” or “grey tsunami.” It will have deep ramifications on our health care and public pension systems, and on society as a whole.

So it makes sense Victoria was chosen as a data collection site for a nationwide study on aging, a study as ambitious, vast and deep as any research project ever contemplated in Canada.

More than a decade in the making, the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging plans to track the health and lives of 50,000 people across Canada aged 45 to 85, for 20 years, or as long as possible.

Victoria’s participation in the study is expected to be about 3,000 people over the first three-year cycle. At that point, the interviews and testing will begin again, ideally with as many of the same people as they started with.

The objective of the study is to allow researchers to fundamentally connect the dots between lifestyle, personal finances, diet, environment and genetics, and overall health.

We have a greater proportion of people reaching traditional retirement age, and in general, people are living longer. As a society we have an obligation to figure out how to age well, and do so without bankrupting the health-care system.

This study probably should have been done 20 years ago.

So far, about 330 people the region have signed up to participate and thousands more will be randomly called to volunteer in the study.

The data collection process can be lengthy and feel somewhat intrusive measured against what people normally tell strangers.

But those who answer the call to volunteer their medical and personal information know they are helping future generations answer important questions about how to improve the quality of life of all Canadians.