McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster Optimal Aging Portal provides trusted voice on healthy aging

Published: October 1, 2014
Anthony Levinson, John Lavis, Maureen Dobbins, Parminder Raina and Brian Haynes
From left: Anthony Levinson, John Lavis, Maureen Dobbins, Parminder Raina and Brian Haynes are leading the research team for the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal.

Canada's aging baby boomers and others caring for seniors are, more than ever, turning to the Internet to self-diagnose illnesses and find information on issues related to aging, without knowing whether the information is accurate or trustworthy.

Now the new McMaster Optimal Aging Portal is becoming the go-to place for Canadians, care-givers and health professionals to find quality health and medical information on senior life.

The McMaster University resource will serve as a trusted voice to guide the choices of citizens, caregivers, health professionals and health system decision-makers on matters related to healthy aging.

The site is already the premier health resource found on the home page of the Government of Canada's online source for seniors.

The portal brings together research evidence about clinical, public health and health systems questions, and presents it in various ways to discuss the key messages from the research, how trustworthy it is, and how it can be acted upon.

The key features of the portal include evidence summaries that present the main points from complex research documents in an easy-to-understand form; blog posts of commentaries about what the scientific research on a topic actually means, and web resource ratings, which help to sort through the masses of other online free resources available on the internet.

The Optimal Aging Portal was created by a team of researchers at McMaster to reinforce the university's role as a leading authority in Canada on the study of aging.

To help the public learn more about the portal, two online discussions are planned.  The first webinar on Oct. 15 from 3 to 4 p.m. will focus on showing citizens how to use the portal's various features to find information on issues and health concerns. The second webinar on Oct. 21, also at 3 p.m., will focus on how the content of the portal is evaluated, and specifically on the web resources ratings. Information on registration may be found at the McMaster Health Forum.

"There are many other online resources that deal with health and aging available, but what sets the Optimal Aging Portal apart from the crowd is its emphasis on providing only the best evidence, and telling you why it's considered the best," said Anthony Levinson, an associate professor of psychiatry who leads the design and development of the website and holds the John R. Evans Chair in Health Sciences Educational Research and Instructional Development.

"The portal filters out the noise and makes it easy to understand how scientific evidence and other types of information can help you."

Suzanne Labarge, the chancellor of McMaster University, has a keen interest in ensuring the public has access to information that can promote healthy aging. In 2012 she donated $10 million to the University to establish the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative.

"With the web you don't know who to believe and who to trust. There is so much misleading information around and, frankly, a lot of people are selling snake oil. You really want to know you're doing something good for yourself, not something stupid. We decided having a trusted source would be really important as part of the Initiative."


McMaster Optimal Aging Portal from Anthony Levinson on Vimeo.

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