Susan Garnet and Dr. Paula Rochon

Women’s Age Lab: Living Lives Well 

Every woman ages – what’s important is how they age.  

The majority of older adults and older women are living independently in the community and would like to stay where they are. Women’s Age Lab is the first and only research centre of its kind dedicated to creating a better quality of life for older women. Born out of a need to bring sharp focus to this critical topic, Women’s Age Lab is committed to advancing science, putting research into action, and raising awareness about, and advocating for, the unique needs of older women.  

With the population aging rapidly, healthcare needs to adequately shift to accommodate the needs of older people – and specifically the unique needs of older women – an invisible majority who are often left behind. Women’s Age Lab aims to support the healthy aging of women by reimagining a system and society where older women and their distinct well-being and health needs are recognized and addressed.  

“Older women continue to face inequities and barriers to healthcare that affect their health and well-being,” says Dr. Paula Rochon, Founding Director of Women’s Age Lab. “Through research and education, we’re using science to transform the aging experience for older women.”

This important work is made possible through the generous support of donors and community partners like the Allen Family Foundation, Nancy Ruth, the Naraine Family Foundation, RBC Wealth Management and Women’s College Health Research – all of whom are helping Women’s Age Lab transform research into real-world results.  

Research at Women’s Age Lab is centred around four key areas of action aligned with international initiatives: 1) addressing gendered ageism; 2) reimagining aging in place and congregate care; 3) optimizing therapies and prescribing; and 4) promoting social connectedness. The cross-cutting theme is ensuring that all data is disaggregated by sex and age to ensure that researchers learn about older women in everything they study.

It’s vital to start making sure that older women are being counted.  

Research findings are made accessible to the public through online resources, lunch-and-learn sessions, webinars, podcasts, and educational panels. Published works from Women’s Age Lab have been featured in prestigious medical journals and national media – which have led to public conversations about how systemic change can benefit older women and, ultimately, all of us.  

Women’s Age Lab has also created a downloadable toolkit to help tackle gendered ageism and spread awareness about it in the community. This toolkit is accessible for everyone – including clinicians, researchers, policymakers and community advocates – and is part of a larger gendered-ageism campaign, which addresses institutional and societal biases that contribute to older women being invisible and lacking a voice in their care.  

Dr. Rochon aims to spark change well beyond the walls of Women’s College Hospital (WCH), demonstrating how the work of Women’s Age Lab can improve the lives of older women in ways that are scalable across Ontario and internationally.  

For example, Women’s Age Lab is currently partnering with University Health Network (UHN), and the Cities of Toronto and Barrie, to improve aging in place through supporting the implementation and evaluation of three enhanced NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) supportive-service models across 10 sites in Ontario. We need to rethink how older adults, and particularly older women, age in communities – and NORCs offer a novel, community-based solution to these pressing issues.  

“We are grateful for the support of our donors and community partners,” says Dr. Rochon. “They are enabling us to increase the impact of our important work by making the science accessible to everyone. Our supporters also enable us to translate research into practice and train the future generation of scientists and clinicians.” 

Learn more about the Women’s Age Lab: https://www.womensresearch.ca/womens-age-lab/

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