In the pandemic, many older adults who could not visit with their children or grandchildren experienced psychological, social and health issues. At the same time, people with no children or grandchildren experienced social isolation or had challenges in providing care to their loved ones. Early research shows that connections between generations of a family may play a positive role in how people age.
To help understand how people age and how intergenerational interactions — being connected to different generations of one’s family (children, parents or grandparents) — impact health, the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA), McMaster University and Dixon Hall have partnered to create the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging Intergenerational Study (MIRA-iGeN).
Why are we doing this research?
The MIRA-iGeN team believes this research can help guide the development of programs that will give people a better quality of life and contribute to healthy aging. To do this, we need to understand what might cause differences in health and disease for people in different economic and social groups as they age. Researchers also hope to learn how the long-term effects of environmental and social factors may impact the health and well-being of a person’s children and grandchildren.
What is unique about this study?
There is a lot of interest in how the things we experience early in life can impact our health when we are older, but most studies have only looked at this within a single generation.
Research suggests that biological, psychosocial, environmental, lifestyle, behavioural and other factors are shared between multiple generations of families. This is the first time in history that up to four generations of the same family may be living at the same time. This new opportunity will let us investigate health and aging across families to understand what factors impact our health, mobility, mental well-being and social participation.
What we expect will come from this research?
MIRA-iGeN research will help identify factors that are common across generations and the presence of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental health disorders, diabetes and dementia. Knowing more about why some people develop a disease while others don’t, despite having risk factors (e.g., obesity), will help us move forward to more personalized prevention and personalized medicine approaches that may give people more years of healthy living.
Who are we asking to be part of MIRA-iGeN?
We are forming a research cohort of 15,000 people. A cohort is a large group of people that researchers work with and learn from — in this case, how biological, social, lifestyle and environmental factors influence health and development across lifespans and generations. We plan to recruit three generations of families, with 5,000 people from each generation as well as people without children or grandchildren.
The research team will reach out to families in Hamilton, Toronto, Cambridge, Brantford, Durham, York, Peel, Halton, Niagara, Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant County. The initial target group for this phase of the study is people 45 years or more.
For more information, please contact
Dr. Andrea Gonzalez
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences
Dr. Parminder Raina
Department of Health Research, Methods, Evidence & Impact
Tel: 905-525-9140, ext. 22197
Meghan Kenny, iGeN Research Coordinator
Charlie Gryspeerdt, iGeN Research Assistant