Tag Archives: McMaster University

Aging study explores impacts of isolation, poverty and frailty as we age

An interview with Dr. Parminder Raina

A large-scale research study, called the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) has been underway for a few years now, and is expected to provide insight on why some of us fare better in our old age than others.

Save with SPP contacted Dr. Parminder Raina, a professor at McMaster University and director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, who is leading the research along with Christina Wolfson of McGill University and Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University. We wanted to find out what the study – which follows 50,000 Canadians who were aged between 45 and 85 at recruitment for 20 years – has found out thus far.

The CLSA’s Report on Health and Aging, says Dr. Raina, shows that “when you look at the overall picture, people are aging in a healthy fashion.” However, he says, subpopulation data shows “that poverty rates are higher in women, and depression rates are higher, probably because of the social isolation issues.

“So while the overall picture looks good, you see some patterns that are not as positive when you start to segment populations differently. So from that point of view, this is an important finding because many of the data that are out in Canada are not specifically able to look at health issues in women,” he states.

Dr. Raina says the study has also helped develop what he calls “a normative cognitive score tied to age. It’s similar to a growth chart for children, but instead tied to memory and cognitive function,” he explains.  Having the score means that a cognitive test with your doctor could “be compared to a normal value developed using the CLSA data,” he states. “We know that aging is a developmental process. At the early ages, there are lot of gains and few losses. But in old age, there can be more losses than gains. By developing cognitive norms, we are able to determine what is normal and what is not when it comes to cognitive changes as we age.”

Another area being explored is frailty. “The traditional sense is that frailty is limited to older people that as they come into their 70s and 80s, they become weak, they lose resilience and become frail. The belief is that is part of growing old. And some older people are frail, and others aren’t,” Dr. Raina says. “Part of our goal is to understand frailty and how does it manifest itself. Some of our initial analyses and results are indicating that frailty is as prominent, in a different way, in a 45-year-old as it is in a 75-year-old.”

Is that frailty seen in younger people “the same as the frailty we see in older people?” he asks. “The other question, which we will answer over the years, is the people who are already frail in some ways, are they more prone to be much more frail in later life? That actually changes the way we look at the whole area of frailty in older people. We need to look at it in a very different way. It might be an issue that cuts across the whole age spectrum.”

Save with SPP asked Dr. Raina if any of the findings thus far come as a surprise.

“Overall, Canada is doing quite well when it comes to aging of the population. However, we can’t paint everyone with the same brush. There are some populations who experience more challenges than others. We need to keep this in mind, especially when developing policies and programs,” he says.

Finally, we asked Dr. Raina what those of us who are older can do to stay in better health as we age. “The two things tend to drive many health issues are smoking and lack of physical activity. Keeping people socially engaged is also tied to healthy aging. So exercising more, eating well and staying connected to friends and family can have a major impact on how we age. Those are the things that will actually lead to some beneficial impact on the health and well-being of people as they grow older,” he says.

In May 2018, the CLSA released its first report on health and aging, which included some important findings, such as:

  • 95 per cent of older Canadians rate their own mental health as excellent, very good or good
  • Women are more likely than men to express feelings of loneliness and social isolation, and that there is a notable correlation between feelings of loneliness and the prevalence of depression among older Canadians
  • 44 per cent of older Canadians report that they provide some level of care to others, and caregiving rates are at their highest (almost 50 per cent) among individuals aged 55-64
  • Driving a motor vehicle is the most common form of transportation for older Canadians regardless of age, sex, geographic location, health or functional status

Save with SPP thanks Dr. Raina for taking the time to answer our questions.

Poverty, as we learned, is a factor that influences health and aging. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan and are saving on your own for retirement, a good option to consider is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. Find out more today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. After a 35-year career as a reporter, editor and pension communicator, Martin is enjoying life as a freelance writer. He’s a mediocre golfer, hopeful darts player and beginner line dancer who enjoys classic rock and sports, especially football. He and his wife Laura live with their Sheltie, Duncan, and their cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Free tuition for seniors

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

If you always wanted to go to college or university and life got in the way, it may not be too late. Some schools like Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University have eliminated tuition waivers for seniors due to provincial budget cuts. However, at least one Saskatchewan University plus several other well-known Canadian schools do not charge seniors for tuition.

For example, the University of Saskatchewan waives tuition fees for people 65 years of age or older, who are provincial residents and who register in the following types of courses and programs:

  • Regular sessions: To a maximum of 15 credits
  • Evening or off-campus courses: To a maximum of 15 credits
  • Intersession and summer session: To a maximum of 6 credits
  • Non-Credit extension programs

At the University of British Columbia, BC residents who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents aged 65 years or over during the session in which they are registered are not assessed application, tuition, or student fees. However, there are tuition fees levied for some programs where facilities and resources are limited.

Tuition and fee waivers apply for seniors who meet residency and age requirements at the University of Manitoba.  Although most of costs are waived for senior students, they still must to submit an application form and meet entrance requirements.

York University’s deal applies to Canadian citizens or permanent residents whether they are registered in a degree course, as a visiting student or simply auditing a program.

Ryerson also offers free tuition to students over 60 for four-year undergraduate programs and McMaster University in Hamilton has a similar program for undergraduates over 65. In addition, McMaster reduces fees by 50 per cent for seniors registered in Continuing Education courses.  However, you are out of luck if the program you want is at University of Toronto, as only nominal ancillary fees are waived for older students.

Dalhousie University encourages learning opportunities and professional development by offering senior students 65 years of age or over who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents at the time of registration and are enrolled in an undergraduate non-professional degree program a senior citizen waiver. This waives only the tuition portion of the fees. The student must pay any incidental fees.

Other colleges and universities across country also offer seniors a tuition break. For more information, contact the school of your choice.

I got an LLM. in the mid-90s, 20 years after I was called to the Bar, so embarking on another rigorous degree program at this stage is not at the top of my “To Do list.”  But if I ever get around to retiring and have some time on my hands, I will definitely be tempted to audit opera, music, theatre and other general interest courses.

Do you have tips for seniors who want to fulfill their lifelong dream to get a university degree? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

10-Oct Thanksgiving Paying it forward: Volunteer opportunities
17-Oct Halloween Cheap and cheerful costumes, snacks
24-Oct Charity How to raise money for almost anything on Indiegogo