Trainee Spotlight: Q&A with Andrea Mayo

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Andrea Mayo is a Ph. D. student at Dalhousie University.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

My name is Andrea Mayo, and I am a student at Dalhousie University, completing my Ph.D. in health. My focus is on lifestyle behaviors and preventing and/or reducing frailty. I am from East Hants, Nova Scotia; however, I completed my Bachelor's and Master's degrees at the University of New Brunswick.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist! My favorite things to do outside of school are getting a workout in with my sister, reading, and recently trying to take up cooking!

What interested you about the CLSA?

CLSA is hard to ignore as an aging and health researcher in Canada. I work mainly with databases, so CLSA is a shoo-in for me and my research! It is exciting to use such a large, detailed, and longitudinal database representing my own country. CLSA has such a wide range of collected variables, which opens the door to answers that researchers want to explore.

What type of research are you doing with CLSA data? Have you published? If so, what are the findings?

My research with the CLSA database focuses on lifestyle behaviors (i.e., physical activity, sedentary time, sleep, diet, alcohol, and smoking habits) to prevent or reduce frailty levels. However, I have previously published a paper with CLSA data looking at how all activity done within 24-hours is associated with physical function (the ability to perform daily activities). This paper looked beyond what is considered “exercise” and looked at how sleep, light activity time, or house-hold chores are connected to high physical function levels. The results from this study support that engaging in strenuous physical activity is beneficial in terms of physical function; however, all activities in a day (example: light activity, sleep, walking) also appears to be valuable when assessing physical function.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you've learned from your work with the CLSA?  How do you think the CLSA will help you grow as a student or in your future?

I have been fortunate to research using the CLSA database while also working at the CLSA Data-Collection Site. This experience at the Data Collection site has given me tremendous insight into aging and a deeper connection to my work. The thing that was most eye-opening to me is how my understanding of frailty evolved. I understood how health behaviors related to frailty and that frailty happens at any age – I could see that as I worked with the CLSA database. The Data Collection Site connected me to the stories and the people behind the data. I think it was meaningful and will help me as I continue in this work. I now truly understand that someone could be 45-years old and frail, and someone else can be 85-years old and robust! I also understand from collecting their health data in person how valuable preventive lifestyle behaviors are and how they improve the quality of life as you age.

How do you think the findings using CLSA data will be useful to you, or others, in the future?

The findings from the CLSA data will be incredibly useful. The older adult population is increasing, and no one is exempt from aging. The findings from CLSA can inform policies and researchers to explore new ways to help Canadians age in with success. As we track CLSA participants, we can explore in an in-depth way that I am personally excited to be engaged with during my Ph.D. and beyond.

Do you have any idea about what kind of job you'd like to do when you finish school?

I want to stay within aging and health -- I love this area of study -- and I love engaging with the older community. I hope to do a post-doctoral degree in Australia with the Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing lead by Dr. Renuka Visvanathan. My long-term goal is to become a researcher and educator on the importance of lifestyle behaviors during aging to lessen chronic health conditions. I hope to help aid in intervention studies or answer questions informing decision-makers, government programs, and other age-related services.

What is a non-career related thing that you are grateful for because of your work with the CLSA?

I am grateful for the opportunity to advocate for healthy aging. Since working one-on-one with the CLSA participants in the Data-Collection Site and with the database, I have connected the dots on how lifestyle and preventive measures to chronic conditions hold immense value. As I collect data on their health conditions and take their health measures, I can connect them to their heath trajectory. It makes me passionate about promoting wellness to youth, young adults, adults, and older adults alike! Healthy Aging isn't focused on older adults – healthy aging happens at every age. My work with CLSA data drives that home for me.


The CLSA is dedicated to establishing an innovative, interdisciplinary training environment for the ongoing engagement of new and emerging researchers, as well as maximizing the use of the CLSA platform as a rich resource of data for the next generation of researchers in health and aging.