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Age Friendly Pharmacy Practice


The Canadian population is aging and strides in modern medicine mean seniors in Canada are enjoying longer and more mature life expectancies. According to the latest Statistics Canada census in 2015, over 15 per cent of the entire Canadian population was aged 65 and older 1. That’s over 5 million Canadians presently and this number is projected to increase in the next two decades. People aged 85 years and older grew by 127 per cent between 1993 and 2013 – making this the fastest growing age cohort in Canada 1.

Medication use in seniors is inherently more complex compared to other cohorts because of

  • physiological changes related to aging;
  • increased likelihood of chronic illnesses; and
  • multiple chronic medication use.

There are large bodies of evidence that also suggest polypharmacy, taking a high number of prescription medications, has an impact on medication errors in the senior population 2,3,4.

In 2014, the World Health Organization released a plan that outlined strategic objectives and actions to support a best life course approach to healthy aging 1. This plan was made in preparation for the expanding numbers of senior citizens across all nations and how to address their complex health needs from a systems-based perspective. One of the strategic objectives was to facilitate an “age-friendly environment” by enabling higher senior population engagement with health-related issues 1.

All of these factors suggest that special care should be taken when healthcare providers prescribe medications for, or dispense medications to, older adults. We know that pharmacists are among the most accessible healthcare providers and will be accessed by older adults in increasing numbers.

To support pharmacy professionals in building age-friendly practice, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada (ISMP Canada) developed a suite of resources to build practice skills and promote community outreach for

  • resolving drug-drug interactions in older adults;
  • mitigating potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults;
  • enhancing safe medication use in older adults; and
  • deprescribing in older adults.

To learn more about how you can build an age-friendly practice, please see the pharmacy practice and community outreach pages.


  1. Canadian Medical Association. The State of Seniors Health Care in Canada – September 2016. https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/2018-11/the-state-of-seniors-health-care-in-canada-september-2016.pdf. Accessed October 30, 2017.
  2. Fialova D, Onder G. Medication errors in elderly people: contributing factors and future perspectives. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Jun;67(6):641-645.
  3. Reason B, et al. The impact of polypharmacy on the health of Canadian seniors. Family Practice. 2012 Aug;29(4):427-432.
  4. Zakharov S, Tomas N, Pelclova D. Medication errors-an enduring problem for children and elderly patients. Ups J Med Sci. 2012 Aug;117(3):309-317.