Ottawa researchers are key players in an ambitious national study on aging, the largest of its kind ever undertaken in Canada.

The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) will follow 50,000 men and women between the ages of 45 and 85 for a period of 20 years.

The study has data collection sites at McMaster University in Hamilton and the Bruyère Research Institute in Ottawa.

Vanessa Taler, lead researcher here in Ottawa, said the data will be collected about changes in all aspects of people's lives as they age - everything from their physical and psychological health to their social and economic situation.

"It's essentially like a data platform, where you have a lot of different types of data people can use to ask a lot of different types of questions," said Taler.

Letters going out to Ontario residents


Vanessa Taler is the lead investigator at the Ottawa site of the national aging study. (CBC)

Here in Ontario, letters from the Ontario Ministry of Health have already started going out to residents.

Anneliese Kincaid, a spry 78-year-old in Ottawa, said she has watched others around her lose everything from conditions like from Alzheimer's disease. She is concerned the infrastructure won't be in place if it happens to her.

"It's scary. My good friend looked after her mom for seven years without any help," she said.

Kincaid's concern is echoed by the latest statistics on Canada's aging population.

In 2010, Statistics Canada reported 1.8 million people in Ontario were aged 65 or older. By 2031, that number is expected to double to 3.7 million people, meaning roughly one in five Ontarians will be 65 or older.

Taler said the study would hopefully give the country a better appreciation of the factors that shape how we age.

"It's really going to revolutionize the way we look at aging in Canada," she said.