With the onset of cold weather and the holidays around the corner, it’s a good moment to consider the importance of social connection for physical and mental health. Isolation and a lack of social connection can lead to feelings of loneliness which affect people’s mental and physical health.
Elderly women report some of the highest rates of loneliness in Canada. Feelings of loneliness are associated with an increased risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, depression and dementia.
In response, researchers and care providers across Canada are working to advance our understanding of mature women’s health and the factors that affect it, including social connection. Their work is already helping women to live fuller and healthier lives. Below are just a few examples of that work.
Dr. Paula Rochon, Founding Director of the Women’s Age Lab at Women’s College Hospital, and Professor of Medicine and Public Health, and Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Toronto, is working to re-envision the aging process at the population-level, particularly for older women who make up the majority of this group. Rochon’s research explores social health challenges facing older adults, highlighting how women and men experience health and healthcare differently.
Dr. Colleen Norris is the Cavarzan Chair in Mature Women’s Health Research, Lois Hole Hospital for Women, and a member of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute. Dr Norris is a professor and associate dean of research with the Faculty of Nursing and holds appointments with the Division of Cardiology, the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Medicine, and School of Public Health. She is the past Chair of the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance, Health Policy and Services Working Group. Dr. Norris is internationally recognized for her leadership in sex and gender science and in developing and disseminating evidence informed strategies to transform clinical practice and impact public policy related to women’s health.
Dr. Rachel Savage, scientist at the Women’s Age Lab and Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital, is investigating loneliness and social isolation in older adults to understand how we can improve the health and well-being of our aging population and alleviate demands on our healthcare system. Savage’s work is helping to establish a platform to connect those in public health, healthcare, and the community working to address these issues.