Aging through life: identifying new pathways for living longer and healthier

PI: Laura Fratiglioni,

Maintaining optimal physical and cognitive function in old age is critical to minimizing individual suffering and the health care costs of chronic disease and disability. This project seeks to identify pathways to longer and healthier lives in older adulthood by exploring the different periods of life when various determinants may influence later health.

The project has four aims. The first is to verify the impact of childhood conditions on late-life health. The second is to explore the influence of midlife factors ‒ environmental, psychosocial, and biomedical ‒ and their interactions on health-related outcomes in late life. The third is to trace changes in those factors from mid- to late life and detect factors specific to late life that protect against functional dependence or increase the risk of such dependence. The fourth is to identify clusters of exposures that, across the lifetime, represent pathways to better health in aging.

To achieve these ambitious aims, we will use data from three population-based longitudinal studies: the Swedish National study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen, the Swedish Panel Study of Living Conditions of the Oldest Old, and the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia study. The three studies share basic designs and similar procedures for data collection and assessment of health outcomes. Combined, they provide assessments of health-related factors over the whole lifespan. These data sets also provide sufficient information to study multiple dimensions of older people’s health, including chronic morbidity and multimorbidity, functioning, and disability.

We expect that the Aging through Life program will contribute sufficiently strong evidence to support new avenues in aging research and provide recommendations for future preventive actions. The program is funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte).