Seniors in chronic pain needed for study on improving their quality of life

By Costa Maragos Posted: April 25, 2018 6:00 a.m.

Ainsley MacIntyre is a master’s student specializing in gerontology.
Ainsley MacIntyre is a master’s student specializing in gerontology. Photo by Rae Graham - U of R Photography

Ainsley MacIntyre, a master’s student in gerontology, feels a close connection to people many times her age.

Growing up in Sydney, Nova Scotia, MacIntyre routinely volunteered her time in nursing homes, helping out in a variety of jobs from food services and reading to residents, to playing piano during lunch hour.

“I’ve always had a close relationship with my grandparents and older adults in general,” says MacIntyre.

Now, she is doing her master’s research on older adults who suffer from chronic pain.

MacIntyre is looking for volunteers who are at least 65 years old to enroll in a pain self-management course.

Participants must be dealing with chronic pain, which is defined as pain lasting for more than three months and not experiencing severe symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Chronic pain threatens the quality of life for many seniors. Studies by Statistics Canada have found that as many as “three-quarters of older adults suffer from chronic pain” and for those living in health care institutions, “the range of chronic pain prevalence is estimated to be even higher.”

MacIntyre recognizes that not all potential participants are internet or tech savvy and therefore participants will be randomized into an online group or a workbook group.

“While our website is very user-friendly, I realize some people over 65 may be less interested in registering because they might not feel comfortable with the technology. We hope the workbook option will encourage more seniors to take part,” says MacIntyre.

MacIntyre hopes participants will come away from the course with an improved way of coping with pain.

“They will gain some knowledge and add some tools to their toolbox, so to speak, to help with the pain they’re dealing with,” says MacIntyre. “There’s a misconception that pain automatically comes with growing older. Pain is not a natural part of growing old. There are some things we can do to change that misconception. Pain in seniors is usually a result of disease or injury which can be treated.”  

MacIntyre notes that all of the participants will receive assistance during the course of the study. A guide will provide support and encouragement and will stay in contact via telephone at least once a week to answer questions.

“Even things like negative self-talk, can sometimes make the pain more difficult to overcome," says MacIntyre. “We feel this course will help people manage those negative thoughts and behaviours and gain some control over their symptoms so they can get back to living a meaningful and active life.”

The course is eight weeks long and consists of 5 lessons of educational materials, do it yourself activities and patients stories.

MacIntyre, who was admitted into the U of R’s graduate program in Gerontology after earning a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, also excels in competitive sports. She was a member of the Dalhousie Tigers Women’s Basketball team for four years before completing her university basketball career as a member of the Cougars.  

For more information please visit here or contact Ainsley MacIntyre at (306) 585-4428 or email her

MacIntyre is working under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Hadjistavropoulos, Professor in the Department in Psychology and Director of the Centre on Aging and Health at the University of Regina.