CLSA scientific paper awarded Dhole-Eddlestone Memorial Prize

Alexandra Mayhew and Parminder Raina

Alexandra Mayhew (left) researcher in the Department of Health Research Methods and Parminder Raina (right) professor and scientific director at the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging

A team of McMaster researchers has been awarded the prestigious Dhole-Eddlestone Memorial Prize for a research paper that used data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) to develop performance charts — similar to the World Health Organization’s child growth charts — that can be used to identify mid- to late-life adults with low physical function.

The prize is given annually to the most deserving medical research relating to the needs of older people published over the last year in the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society (BGS), Age and Ageing. The paper, “Normative values for grip strength, gait speed, timed up and go, single leg balance, and chair rise derived from the Canadian longitudinal study on ageing,” was published in April 2023.

The research was co-led by first author Alexandra Mayhew, a research associate in the department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact (HEI) at McMaster, and senior author Parminder Raina, scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging, and the lead principal investigator of the CLSA.

“Our team is deeply honoured to receive the Dhole-Eddleston Prize,” Mayhew said.

“We hope that the age-specific performance charts we developed will improve the identification of low physical function and mobility in mid-to-late-life older adults, allowing for early interventions to preserve mobility and function and improve quality of life.”

The groundbreaking performance charts developed by the McMaster team were inspired by the World Health Organization’s growth charts for children, which benchmark early childhood growth by age and sex. The research team identified that the rapid growth experienced by infants and children is analogous to the declines experienced as we age.

The charts provide an alternative to traditional “cut-offs” which do not take the expected declines in muscle strength and physical function that occur with normal aging into consideration. This results in “cut-offs” that overidentify older adults and under-identify younger adults as having low physical performance.

The new performance charts show the distribution of performance in adults aged 45 to 85,  free of mobility impairments for five tests of physical function: Grip strength, gait speed, timed up and go, chair rise and balance.

“Physical function and mobility are critical to healthy aging and should be considered as a sixth vital sign,” Raina said. “But changes in physical function, such as weaker grip strength or slower walking speed, are expected.

“There is a clear need to detect problems with physical function earlier, and these charts will enable health-care professionals to measure performance against what is expected for an individual’s age and sex.”

Launched in 2010, the CLSA is Canada’s largest study of aging following more than 50,000 individuals who were between the ages of 45 and 85 at recruitment, for 20 years. Support for the CLSA is provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Read a lay summary of the prize-winning paper: Charting the course: Healthy mobility as we age

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