Penney Ageing Research Unit at Royal North Shore Hospital

With advances in health care, most Australians can expect to live beyond 80 years.  Medicines help make this possible.  At the same time there are pitfalls with medicines as we age.  Medicines act differently in older people.  Furthermore, when taken in combination for multiple problems, medicines can cause unanticipated side effects.  Many of the geriatric giants: falls, confusion and loss of independence, may be caused by side effects of medicines rather than diseases, dementia or ageing.

Our research aims to optimise quality of life in old age by understanding how medicines, individually and in combinations, affect older people.

The Penney Ageing Research Unit is closely linked with Aged Care services at Royal North Shore Hospital, and incorporates scientific and clinical staff including geriatricians, A/Prof Sue Ogle, A/Prof Alex Bune, Dr Connie Vogler, Dr Peter Veitch, Dr Terry Finnegan, Dr Kevin Chang, Dr James Hardy, Dr Laura Ahmad, and clinical psychologist Dr Maurice Finn.

Our research is led by Prof Sarah Hilmer, an internationally recognised geriatrician and clinical pharmacologist at Royal North Shore Hospital. We uniquely bring together expertise in clinical geriatric medicine with expertise in clinical pharmacology. This allows us to perform research to understand how to use medicines to help older people age well. For example, one of our discoveries, the Drug Burden Index, measures an older person’s total exposure to medicines that subtly impair functional independence. The Drug Burden Index has now been validated internationally and is being tested locally as a clinical risk assessment tool.

Significant support from our founding donors, the Penney family, has allowed us to establish the Ageing Research Unit at RNSH and the Kolling Institute.  We seek your support to make our research self-sustaining and to help us achieve even greater clinical impact locally, nationally and internationally. Translation of our research will reduce adverse effects from medicines, like falls, confusion and disability, and improve the use of medicines to maximise independence and quality of life in older adults. 

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