We need to rethink how we treat older women in healthcare.

Paula Rochon, QUOI Media

Older adults need health care and social services that respond to their unique needs. For older women, however, research shows that this is not happening. They are often overlooked by the policy planners, researchers, and care providers whose decisions affect their well-being.

This is despite the fact that older women make up 55 per cent of the population of older adults in the United States and their numbers are expected to grow. In the coming decade, 20 per cent of the population in the U.S. and Canada will be over age 65, and most of them will be women. Older women may have different health and social needs than older men and fewer economic resources.

A new Women’s Age Lab is working to change the way society perceives and treats older women. Believed to be the first of its kind, the centre is using scientific research to address four under-studied areas that older women say are important to their health and well-being.

One is gendered ageism, which results in older women’s experiences and contributions being devalued.

Another is reimagining aging in place and in congregate care to ensure that the specific needs of older women are addressed whether they are living at home or in a long-term care facility.

A third focus is on researching ways to optimize drug treatments to reduce the incidence of adverse drug effects on older women.

The fourth area is on research to better understand loneliness in older women and develop strategies to foster social connection.

Through collaboration with healthcare providers, community organizations, and international experts, the lab is developing science-based health and social policy solutions to improve the lives of older women around the world.

Dr. Paula Rochon, MD, MPH, FCRPC, is Founding Director of Women’s Age Lab, a geriatrician and senior scientist at Women’s College Hospital and ICES in Toronto. She is a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto (UofT) and is the inaugural RTOERO Chair in Geriatric Medicine at UofT.