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Women’s Age Lab: Follow up questions with Dr. Rochon

Dr. Paula Rochon, RTOERO Chair in Geriatric Medicine and Dr. Rachel Savage, epidemiologist and a research scientist, based at Women’s Age Lab at Women’s College Hospital presented a webinar in November 2021 about the Women’s Age Lab.

Webinar attendees, as always, had plenty of questions. Here are some of the questions and answers we didn’t have time to address during the session.

Read more about the Women’s Age Lab in eRenaissance: Gender, sex and aging

Q&A on gendered ageism, healthy aging and more

Q: What are the most effective ways for older women to advocate for themselves?

  • Keep open lines of communication with your family doctor and healthcare team – don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Vocalize any concerns and needs, and don’t minimize your symptoms.
  • Be aware of the medications you are taking, when they were started and why. 
  • Don’t be afraid to clarify with healthcare providers when uncertain.
  • Don’t settle for treatment you feel uncomfortable with and seek out a second opinion when necessary.
  • Involve family members and loved ones when appropriate.

Q: Do you think that men are less likely to comment on feelings of loneliness than women? Or is that stereotyping?

A: This is one hypothesis to explain why men have lower rates of loneliness than women. Although traditional gender norms and roles are changing, research has found that women seem to be more willing to explore, admit, and report feelings like loneliness. This may be due in part to the stigma around loneliness, even though it is a feeling we all experience at some point in our lives.

We have found in our own research with RTOERO members that fewer men report feeling lonely than women. Living alone is an important risk factor for loneliness for both women and men. 

Q: How could we advocate for employers, such as school boards, to provide age-appropriate work opportunities so employees could continue to be active in the workplace longer, but perhaps part-time, and thus reap the benefits of being cognitively, physically, and socially active?

A: Evidence-informed policy making is a foundation. We all need to ensure that older adults are actively participating in the community and contributing to our economy. There are great exemplars for us to follow: Countries like Singapore and Japan have heavily invested in life-long learning initiatives for older adults, barrier-free transportation access, and developed programs for older adults to work in different industries.

We should learn from these great examples and build a path for us to promote social connectedness and healthy aging for all Canadians. Government, healthcare institutions and community advocates need to make a concerted effort to put this into action. Women’s Age Lab continues to identify the best evidence and advocate for decision-makers to bring positive change.

Q: Why are the statistics on pandemic deaths not disaggregated by sex and age? 3800 deaths in LTCs? Were women more heavily impacted?

A: Early in the pandemic, only three of the 10 countries with the most COVID-19 cases provided data disaggregated by sex and age. None of those three countries reported data in long-term care by sex and age. Given that most countries collect these data, the failure to report their intersection means valuable information and insights are lost.

Long-term care homes were the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic during the first wave of the pandemic, prior to the availability of vaccines, where residents early in the pandemic accounted for as many as 80 per cent of the deaths in Canada. This resulted in a disproportionate impact on older women as they make up more than 60 per cent of long-term care home residents.

Q: Does the Women’s Age Lab have a newsletter or some other means of communication which we could access?

A: Currently, the Women’s Age Lab has a website where information can be found on our research and team. Developing a newsletter is an excellent idea as a future means of communication about the work that the Women’s Age Lab is doing. Anyone can reach Women’s Age lab at this email: [email protected].