Woman holding herself at the top of an hourglass to keep from falling to the bottom where there is a pasture full of cows

Aging Out of Research

I have been, and remain, an advocate for multiple sclerosis (MS) research, especially for African-American people living with MS (PLwMS). That support is not limited to the clinical forms. Quality of life surveys and research questionnaires contribute as much to our body of knowledge as those that require lab work. I have shared my past experiences with research participation.

MS research for older adults

Then something odd started happening. Other health issues notwithstanding, I was qualifying for fewer and fewer studies. An investigation into why produced an answer I should have prepared for. I was aging out of the preferred study demographic.

Already old

My MS diagnosis came when I was mid-career. I would not have been called a spring chicken by any means. I did not qualify for Social Security, but I was not a young professional, either. I fell within age range for research participation, so I did not think a thing of it. I took opportunities as they came along. My own advancing age was not at the forefront of my mind. I was confronted with the reality of Father Time as chances to help further research dried up.

Is over 50 out to pasture?

It was not as if I was unaware of the age limits imposed by most research projects. I simply was not ready to be among the casualties of researchers’ biases. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic illness where the age of initial diagnoses falls between 20 and 50. Current research around older adults and MS is sparse. To date, limited data has been collocated regarding aging and MS.

What is known about the subject highlights the fact that decreasing inflammation and increasing comorbidities make adults over 50 more complex research participants. But with more people being diagnosed at later ages, researchers and funds are turning more attention to PLwMS at the older end of the presumptive patient age range.1

Change is around the corner

There is good news on the horizon when it comes to people who are over 50 and multiple sclerosis research. A current study of a disease-modifying therapy is inclusive of individuals up to age 65.2

I am seeing, close-up, the work that others are doing to raise awareness and effect change against this seeming prejudice. Organizations are dedicating more resources to this end with special task forces and committees. I am saddened at my reduced ability to give back to my MS community through research participation. However, the opportunity to do so once again may be in the reasonable future. My hopes are high.

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