Women’s College Hospital is now home to the world’s first research and advocacy centre devoted to improving the lives of older women. Led by Dr. Paula Rochon, a senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, the Women’s Age Lab will put older women front and centre to help address health equity.
“In Canada, women 60% of people over 65,” she says “Yet when it comes to their emotional and physical health, they’re dramatically underrepresented in conversations and research about health and social services.”
With women tending to live longer than men, they are more likely to act as caregivers for family members, live alone and live in long-term care. They are also at greater risk of experiencing multiple chronic health conditions, being prescribed inappropriate medications and reporting feelings of loneliness and isolation.
The lab intends to transform health and social care for older women by putting existing research into action, forming new research collaborations across multiple disciplines and driving advocacy and awareness through communications. The lab is focused on four key areas: the intersection of gender and ageism, optimizing drug therapies, issues related to congregate care settings and the impact of loneliness on older women. Working with community organizations, health system leaders and international researchers from disciplines like sociology and political science, the lab will change the way women experience life and health as they age.
Recognizing the need for this research, the lab recently received a funding boost from Women’s College Health Research (WCHR) – an independent charity formed by a group of donors to support the work of Women’s College Hospital, and the hospital’s largest donor. “Women’s has always been there to address important issues and advocate for those who need it,” says Jocelyn Palm, a WCHR board member and a long-time member of the hospital’s Association of Volunteers “The need to support older women came into even sharper focus during the pandemic, and we’re happy to support this area and invest in the work of the Women’s Age Lab.”