Research Report 2018

A man in an operating room

Dr. Paula Rochon | Senior Scientist, Geriatrician and Vice-President, Research

Re-envisioning how women age

Canada is on-track to becoming a super-aging society by 2025 with more than 25 per cent of our population over the age of 65. Aging is increasingly recognized as a global health challenge – specifically advancing the health and wellbeing of older adults. Dr. Paula Rochon, Retired Teachers of Ontario Chair in Geriatric Medicine, is working to re-envision the aging process at the population-level, particularly for older women who make up the majority of this demographic. Her research explores societal health challenges facing older adults, highlighting how women and men experience health and healthcare differently.  

Informed by her experience as a geriatrician, Dr. Rochon is leading international research to improve providers understanding of how to prescribe drugs to older people, particularly women whose advanced age, chronic conditions, and use of multiple medications make them vulnerable to adverse events. In particular, her research has informed initiatives to reduce the unnecessary use of antipsychotic drug therapy and has led to the development of the prescribing cascade concept. Prescribing cascades are becoming increasingly common in older adults, occurring when an individual has a side effect to a drug and their doctor misinterprets the reaction as a new medical condition and prescribes additional medication. Dr. Rochon is helping clinicians think carefully about their prescribing habits to reduce potentially inappropriate prescribing and to inform de-prescribing strategies.  

Dr. Rochon is committed to the development of trainees and new investigators in geriatric medicine research. Her team is identifying factors associated with aging well, as well as identifying potential challenges, such as loneliness and caregiving. While rewarding, caregiving can have a detrimental impact to one’s physical, mental, social and economic outcomes. Research is exploring the impact of caregiving to inform strategies to reduce its potential burden. Greater attention is being placed on the impact of loneliness among older adults as it can negatively affect both their physical and mental health. Research in this area aims to better understand the impact of loneliness, in order to facilitate feelings of belonging and engagement, to improve health and decrease stress on the healthcare system. Through their research, Dr. Rochon’s team aims to provide older adults with the tools they need to shape the life they want.