• Joanna Thomson

Clinical trial recruitment: how to appeal to the elderly


It’s predicted that by 2060, there will be over 92 million people over the age of 65 years old in the US, which is roughly a quarter of the country’s current population. In other words, there will only be two-and-a-half working adults to every elderly citizen of the United States by this time. This prediction by the US Census Bureau comes as modern advancements in medicine are seeing people live healthier, longer lives.


Worryingly, however, the research that will sustain this part of the population is failing to successfully complete essential clinical trials. Figures from the FDA show that participation in clinical trials is falling among the over-65 age group. This is alarming as senior participation in clinical studies is fast becoming the key to understanding how new medicines will affect the growing population. Research shows that as we age our bodies can react differently to drugs, medicines and treatments; different side-effects may also be observed and dosages must also account for age.



The fact is: there are a variety of reasons why senior/elderly participation in clinical trials is decreasing. In most cases, seniors are less likely to meet eligibility requirements due to existing health conditions or medication. They also tend to live alone, and many are unable to travel to trial locations. In fact, a study by Alzheimer’s Research found that caregiver participation is also an often-specified requirement by studies involving seniors, which may prevent seniors enrolling.


The problems don’t stop at issues with participant health; a lot of current patient recruitment metrics are biased towards younger participants. Eligible persons are simply being overlooked by current clinical protocol as research sites fail time and time again to fully cater their traditional and digital recruitment plans towards the elderly population.


At Citruslabs, we use a bold new approach to address this issue. We’ve built a smartphone app targeted at this age group, from which we have accumulated a significant and diverse user base that we then use to identify, enrol and engage patients for clinical trials. Crucially, we collect information on our user-base to ensure that the persons selected are only those that match the exact eligibility requirements for the specific trial. The app maintains patient engagement through the initial recruitment and trial stages of research to overcome what is another significant barrier to recruiting seniors: patient retention. To date, our extensive experience has seen us build a database of 3 million users - a large section of whom are aged 65+ and represent a rich variety of medical conditions.


This is not all we do as, to make the recruitment process that bit easier for researchers everywhere, we’ve come up with the market’s first patient recruitment dashboard. Citrus is a state-of-the-art tool that makes screening, scheduling, and communicating with patients a breeze. Site coordinators and clinical trial sponsors alike can log in and check on the status of your study’s enrollment, send communication to potential participants, and measure your enrollment goals. With a blinded access trial recruitment dashboard (like Citrus), clinical trial sponsors and CROs can even view their clinical study’s progress without risking trial validity. An easy-to-use clinical recruitment dashboard tool is the ultimate automated assistant for patient recruitment and retention.


Citrus: manage all your recruitment tasks in one place.

For research sites looking for alternate ways of recruiting the senior population, apps are certainly the ideal medium through which to reach this key demographic. The over-65’s are the fastest growing adopters of tablets after all! The widespread adoption of this method to recruit seniors for clinical trials will go some way to bridging the gap between the aging population and the number of seniors enrolling in clinical research, with significant increases to be made on the quality of clinical trials and the availability of the drugs and medicine needed to sustain an aging population going forward.



  • Interested in finding out more? Get in touch with us here, and check out our archives for all our top tips and tricks on running successful clinical trials in today's constantly changing industry.

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