Category Archives: Research

Guest blog: The science of staying active into old age

This guest blog was contributed by Professor Ilaria Bellantuono, an expert on musculoskeletal ageing, from the University of Sheffield. 

Over 10 million people in the UK currently live with pain and disability due to musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis or fractures due to osteoporosis. The NHS annual budget for these diseases is over £5 billion per annum and musculoskeletal conditions are the leading cause of disability in the UK and globally.

The majority of these diseases develop with age and the resulting pain, stiffness and loss of mobility can impact every aspect of a person’s life. Simple tasks can become difficult because they require dexterity of hands and wrists, and the ability to reach up or bend down. It’s not surprising that people with musculoskeletal conditions are four times more likely to develop depression.

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Launch of Age UK report on Health and care of older people in England

Today, Age UK launches ‘The health and care of older people in England 2015’ report, that analyses the degree to which the needs of older people are being met by health and care services. Jill Mortimer, Policy Adviser at Age UK , looks at the findings of the report. 

What’s really happening in health and social care services? Over the years, in our Care in Crisis series we documented the devastating budget cuts that meant fewer and fewer people were getting public support for help with their day to day activities.

Trends in the NHS

But what about the NHS? Hasn’t it been protected through the last five years of cuts in public services? If so, what lay behind last year’s winter crisis? And why is Monitor, the health services financial regulator, now talking about the ‘worst financial crisis in a generation’?

These are the kinds of questions people are now asking and in our new report we try to answer them. We have updated our usual annual analysis of trends in social care and added analysis of trends in the NHS. We present the most authoritative and up to date facts and figures to understand older people’s health and care needs and the extent to which these are being met by our health and care systems. Continue reading

Guest blog: How music can help people living with dementia


Our first blog of the week looks at how music can be used as a way to help care for and support people living with dementia. It was contributed by Doctor Victoria Williamson, Director of Music and Wellbeing, at the University of Sheffield. 

Music is powerful, multi-functional, ageless and universal: one of the greatest human inventions.

You will, no doubt, know music that instantly transports you back in time to a treasured memory. Lyrics pop automatically to your mind. You remember music from decades ago but struggle with the names of people you met just days before.

Psychological studies support these anecdotal accounts of the power of music in long-term memory. Individuals who face extreme challenges to their memory, such as amnesia or dementia, rarely lose these musical connections.

I run the ‘Music and Wellbeing’ research unit at the University of Sheffield and for the last year my team has been looking at the impacts of live music sessions in dementia care*. Nine South Yorkshire care homes opened their doors to us and we recorded remarkable moments between the community of individuals living with dementia, their carers and loved ones, and the visiting musicians. Continue reading

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