Category Archives: Research

How should we talk about ‘frailty’?

Scene from a care home

In health care, the word ‘frailty’ carries a lot of baggage. In its most positive sense, it is a phrase used by older people’s specialists to describe a particular state of health, usually characterised by multiple or complex physical and mental health and social needs.

This can then be a gateway to proactive care and support joined-up around the individual.

At the less positive end, it is a shorthand for older people in later old age, with multiple long-term conditions that are almost too difficult to manage. In this case the so-called ‘frail elderly’ may be recognised for having high needs but thought of as almost beyond help and given little support.

It is well known that older people do not identify with the word ‘frailty’. This was a strong finding from research we carried out in 2013.

However, we wanted to understand in more detail how older people felt about being referred to as “frail” and whether or not this could impact on their engagement with services. Continue reading

Guest blog – Using the data we already have to improve older people’s lives

This guest blog was contributed by Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Professor of Social Policy and International Development at the University of East Anglia. 

These days there are more and more surveys collecting large amounts of data about the lives of older people, as well as everyone else in society. As a researcher, I know we sometimes don’t make the best use of these surveys, preferring to collect our own data to meet our particular needs and interests. The problem is that designing surveys, gathering information and making sure it is fit for purpose is both expensive and time-consuming. This is why the main government funder of social research, the Economic and Social Research Council, has set up a new programme to promote better use of what is already out there –they call this “Secondary data analysis”.

Of the 58 projects currently funded by this new scheme, 12 are particularly concerned with older people, with interests ranging from pensions, to loneliness and cold-related deaths. Initial findings from these different studies were recently presented at Age UK in London. We have a series of policy briefs in production and are hoping these will be available on the Age UK website in the next few weeks. The Economic and Social Research Council are now commissioning the next set of secondary data analysis projects, and hopefully older people’s interests will be just as well represented second time around.

Age UK aims to be a centre of expertise on ageing issues and a knowledge hub for all information relating to older people. Find out more about Age UK’s Knowledge Hub

 

Guest blog – A new ageing population: People with Cystic Fibrosis

This guest blog was contributed by Dr Jill Edwards, School of Healthcare, Leeds University.

When I was born I was not expected to live long enough to go to school, but a few months ago I celebrated by my 50th birthday. I have cystic fibrosis (CF).

Ageing with CF is now a reality for many people with the condition (nearly 9,000 in the UK). Most people with CF used to die before they became adults, but now there are more adults than children with this disease. And over the last 30 years, the life expectancy of people with CF has increased drastically, with a median age of survival ranging between 35.9 and 48.1 years. More and more people with CF are now likely to face ‘old age’, yet it is not known how prepared we are.

Cystic fibrosis is a serious, inherited, long term condition. A fault in a gene prevents salts (sodium and chloride) from passing in and out of cells in the body properly. This results in the production of thick, sticky mucus in organs. To be born with CF a baby must inherit two faulty genes, one from each parent. Continue reading

Technology to help at home

This blog was contributed by Dave Wright, Age UK’s Research Assistant.

Age UK has been working with Universities of Sheffield, St Andrews and Reading on a project called Challenging Obstacles and Barriers to Assistive Living Technologies (COBALT),  to understand why the adoption of assisted living technology by older people is so low. These technologies can be anything from pendant emergency alarms to blood pressure monitors and electric wheelchairs.

440x210_computer_man_white_apple_laptop_homeThe usual explanation is that older people just won’t use technology. However, this research project has gathered data from older people, health and social care professionals, and commissioners and come to different conclusions.

The study found that despite a wealth of information on inclusive design, some assistive living technology is still poorly designed and packaged with instructions that make them very hard to use. We have tried it on a range of people and found this applies to everyone, not just older people. So given good design, older people welcome technology provided they can see it will help them live their lives the way they want. Continue reading