Endowed chair Foundation blog

Meet Lynn Zhu, post-doctoral fellow and part of the next generation of geriatric researchers

What got you interested in the field of aging? 

My grandparents have played a huge role in my life. Observing them and their friends made me want to learn more about aging. In grade 9, I volunteered in the geriatric ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton.  It was a great experience that has started my career focus on geriatrics and gerontology going forward.

What is the area of research that you are most passionate about? 

I have a special interest in public health, and helping older adults live in the community as long as possible.  This has been a topic that I have explored throughout my education and work experience.

Why should we invest in aging research? 

Aging is universal – we all go through it, so investing in aging research is really just investing in ourselves.  Research is one of the best ways to improve our knowledge about how to age optimally.   Aging is an underfunded and even overlooked area of public health research.  So, we still have a lot of work to do before we can answer how to best support individuals in post-retirement ages.

How has past training helped you? 

My undergraduate degree is in Life Sciences from the University of Toronto.  Through courses there, I learned about how aging changes many dimensions of a person’s life –not just biological, but also emotional, financial, social, psychological, spiritual.

I focused on Health and Aging at Western University for my Master’s degree.  I met with people who cared for a spouse at home, and researched how people made decisions about whether to continue in a caregiver role or seek long-term care for their loved ones.   For example, men started to consider long-term care when their spouses needed help with personal care, like bathing or going to the washroom.  Women, and people whose cultural beliefs about family caregiving is strong, tend to try to keep provide care at home regardless of the needs.  This helps to address the different challenges faced by different spouse caregivers.

My most recent PhD training at Western is in a subspecialty of public health called epidemiology.   It is the study of health and disease in large populations, and how to manage and provide services to address health and disease.   I spent over 4 years visiting older adults with Parkinson’s disease in small towns and cities throughout southwestern Ontario.  I discovered how new technologies like wearable GPS sensors could be better used to study older people’s mobility.  I also gained important research skills and insights into some of the challenges facing different older Ontarians.

What is your goal in this post-doc position? 

I am so grateful for this opportunity that is supported through the RTOERO Chair in Geriatric Medicine and the very special gift in will from Margaret Emmerson.  With this opportunity, I will be able to access large provincial datasets to research ways to improve medication-prescribing practices.  And most importantly, this opportunity gives me a chance to be mentored by Dr. Paula Rochon, a leading geriatrician and researcher.   This is a valuable process as I transition to an independent research career.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

I plan to stay in public health and aging, in a role that incorporates both direct interaction with the community as well as research.

Tell us something personal about yourself 

I love to learn.  Right now, I’m trying to improve my French skills and my long-board tricks (form of skateboarding).  I was born in southeastern China and moved to Hamilton when I was 9 years old, then I moved to Toronto part way through high school.  During my PhD studies, I was a competitive fencer.

Any last comments?

Yes, I want to thank the RTOERO members for this opportunity that allows me to meet people that I am studying, as well as accessing important data sets.  Most of all, it is inspiring for me to work with a group who are so passionate about knowledge and giving back to others.