If you have questions about your health, would like to improve the health of others, or are simply interested in how research studies work, the LIFE Registry may be the answer.
Hosted by the College of Public Health and Human Sciences’ Center for Healthy Aging Research (CHAR), the LIFE Registry (Linking Individuals, Families and Environments) is a list of volunteers age 50 and older who indicate they are willing to participate in studies that will be used to inform policy, create programs and develop strategies to meet the needs of older individuals, their families and society.
“It’s really the researchers who are driving the research,” says LIFE Registry coordinator Anne Hatley. “We are just the coordinating spot. It helps cut down the amount of time and energy researchers have to put into finding participants. So far, 28 studies have been approved for LIFE Registry use. It is a very important resource for CHAR and for the university community.”
“We are so fortunate, as researchers, to have access to a database of individuals who are interested in participating in healthy aging research.”
Researchers first identify what age range, gender and area of residence they need for their study and are then provided with a volunteer pool of candidates through the LIFE Registry. From there, it is up to the researchers to ask potential volunteers more specific questions to meet their study’s needs.
Ph.D. student and National Science Foundation fellow Shannon Mejia says her recent work with CHAR Endowed Director Karen Hooker wouldn’t have been possible without the LIFE Registry.
Their work on the Personal Understanding of Life and Social Experiences (PULSE) project consisted of more than 100 LIFE Registry participants who documented their daily lives over a 100-day period. The research examined how individuals regulate their goals, and Shannon’s research focused specifically on social goals – how important maintaining strong and supportive social ties are and how they’re linked to health and well-being in older adulthood. So far, there have been four peer-reviewed articles published from the PULSE study alone.
“We are so fortunate, as researchers, to have access to a database of individuals who are interested in participating in healthy aging research,” Shannon says. “The availability of the LIFE Registry allows us to easily conduct studies to test new ideas, and also to tap into insight from an older adult population.”
The LIFE Registry is comprised of approximately 550 people over the age of 50 who live in Oregon. Coordinators say it’s important to have as many people as possible in the pool in order to effectively conduct research.
“Sometimes the research people are doing is so specific that it’s hard for them to find participants,” Anne says. “The LIFE Registry provides them a starting point to work from, but we are always in need of more volunteers.”
Studies vary in length, lasting anywhere from less than an hour to more than a few years. They’re conducted in various locations including on-campus buildings, a volunteer’s home, in the community, by phone or online. Volunteers are not paid to be listed on the LIFE Registry, but certain studies may compensate the volunteer for their time participating in the study, mileage or other expenses.
Volunteer information is kept confidential and is only available to researchers who request it. Participants always have the opportunity to opt out of participating in a study, withdraw from a study or request that they no longer be contacted about opportunities to participate in research about healthy aging.
Studies are conducted in CHAR’s four core areas of research: Diet and Genetics; Musculoskeletal; Psychosocial; and Gerontechnology. Topics range from the PULSE study, to post hip fracture healing, to evaluating balance and strength, to interactive video technology.
But it’s not only researchers who benefit from these studies. Many times, participants report that on top of having a good time, they also feel they’re making a positive difference in their own lives or contributing to future generations.
“There’s no personal application for me, but I did it to benefit others,” says 70-year-old Jerry Hilliard, who participated in the PULSE study. “How else are you going to be able to answer some of the questions people have about living their lives unless somebody has investigated why people live longer or why people are happier living longer or not?”
“I am continually impressed by their dedication and commitment to science on healthy aging.”
Anne, who not only is the coordinator for the LIFE Registry, but is also a volunteer, says the research she participated in was mutually beneficial for herself and the researcher.
“I have a tendency to sit down at my computer all day long without getting up, and that’s really, really bad for you,” she says. “Wearing the pedometer in the study that I was a part of made me think about getting up and at least walking around the building a couple of times a day. So that was very helpful.”
The registry was created in 2006 and has continued to provide a link between the center’s research and the community.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed every interaction I’ve had with LIFE Registry members,” Shannon says. “I am continually impressed by their dedication and commitment to science on healthy aging.”
To volunteer for the LIFE Registry, complete and submit the online volunteer registration form here.