Clinical Trials and Older Adults — Strategies to Drive Older Adult Participation

Momentum Discussion at GSA's 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting
Moderator: Stephanie A. Studenski
Panelists: Roger A. Fielding, Jay S. Magaziner

Individuals enrolled in a clinical trial of a novel intervention ought to represent those who are intended to benefit. However, older adults, especially those with multimorbidity or frailty, are under-represented in most trials, even when they may benefit and are likely to use the intervention in real life. While practical barriers and unnecessary research assumptions have limited participation, multiple feasible solutions exist. This session, based on a recent conference, described the strengths and limitations of trial design and implementation strategies that can open the door to greater participation by, and generalizability to, a broad range of older adults.

Recruiting Older Adults for Clinical Trials: Communication Tips for Clinical Investigators

Vignette (link coming soon)
Until recently, older adults were generally not well-represented in clinical trials. As a result, the evidence base for guiding treatment in this population is less robust than for younger adults. Efforts are underway to ensure that more diverse patient populations are included in clinical trials. Therefore, enrolling older adults in clinical trials is important for supporting these efforts. Increasing communication with older adults about clinical trials is likely to improve enrollment. In fact, more than two-thirds of Americans say it’s likely they would participate in a clinical trial if recommended by their doctor. In this video, we will review tips for communicating with older adults, including both general communication strategies and specific points for discussing clinical trial enrollment.

GSA primary sm webLearn about aging from leading experts. Hear from educators, clinicians, administrators, researchers, and students who share their experiences, expertise, and innovations in aging.

Coming soon!

These National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Conference Grants (R13 and U13) support programs are relevant to public health and to the scientific mission of the participating institutes and centers and GSA.



Video of May 10, 2018, Capitol Hill briefing, featuring:

  • Introducing GSA’s longevity economics report (James Appleby, CEO of The Gerontological Society of America)
  • Longevity economics report overview (Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management at University of Pennsylvania)
  • Financial sector perspective (Kevin Crain, Head of Enterprise Financial Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch)
  • U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging special guest (Sarah A. Khasawinah)

Workgroup Members

Peter Cappelli, PhD, Chair
George W. Taylor Professor of Management
The Wharton School Center for Human Resources
University of Pennsylvania

Axel Börsch-Supan, PhD
Munich Center for the Economics of Aging
Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy

Gary Burtless, PhD
John C. and Nancy D. Whitehead Chair in Economic Studies
Brookings Institution


Kathleen J. Mullen, PhD
Senior Economist
RAND Corporation

Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD
Associate Dean and Cofounder
Sloan Center on Aging & Work
Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
Boston College

Surya Kolluri
Head of Policy and Planning
Bank of America Merrill Lynch


This program is developed by GSA and supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Publication Series

GSA offers the Communicating with Older Adults publication series. Each installment is intended for any professional who seeks to have the best possible interactions with older adults. They cover the broad range of communication issues experienced by older adults and health care providers, and give concrete suggestions for dealing with problems when they arise.

Current Titles

  • Communicating with Older Adults: An Evidence-Based Review of What Really Works
  • Communicating with Older Adults: Recognizing Hidden Traps in Health Care Decision Making

Video Vignette

Effective communication is the foundation upon which all positive patient care interactions are based. But changes in vision, hearing, and cognitive processing can present challenges to effective communication between health care providers and older adults. A three-minute video from GSA details examples of major communication challenges and specific recommendations to overcome them. The recommendations are based on GSA’s highly popular publication "Communicating with Older Adults: An Evidence-based Review of What Really Works." The video is intended for any healthcare professional that interacts with older adults and was supported by Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc.

Silver Market Training Modules

At present, older adults account for 34 percent of all prescription drug use and 30 percent of over-the-counter drug use. The U.S. Administration on Aging forecasts that nearly one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of older adults currently are unable to understand the information given to them about their prescription medications.

GSA is now offering its members free access to several online training modules designed to help pharmacy professionals meet the needs of their aging patients. And while these tools are geared toward pharmacists and other support staff, they can be useful to any gerontologists seeking to have optimal interaction with the aging population. Collectively known as The Silver Market Community Pharmacy series, each installment runs less than 25 minutes and offers expert information and time-tested techniques to help pharmacists and technicians work efficiently and respectfully across the counter.

GSA developed the modules with support from several partners, including McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Novartis Consumer Health, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, and Purdue Pharma. GSA’s technology partner in hosting the series is LearnSomething, Inc.

Current Titles

To access the modules, click here.

Note: You must be a logged in as a member for the free access codes to appear on this page. Non-members may access the modules for a fee. The following titles are available:

  • Pain Management and Older Adults
  • Communicating Effectively With Older Adults: What Really Works. The Basics of Aging and Communication
  • Communicating Effectively With Older Adults: What Really Works. Improving Face-to-Face Communication with Older Adults II: Medication Safety
  • Communicating with Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment
  • Communicating Effectively With Older Adults: What Really Works. Older Adult Diversity
  • Communicating Effectively With Older Adults: OTC Medication Reconciliation
  • Improving Face-to-Face Communication with Older Adults: Medication Adherence
  • Communicating Effectively With Older Adults: Sleep Health and Sleep Disturbance
  • Communicating Effectively With Older Adults: Older Adults and OTC Sleep Aids


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