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.

Continue reading “Guest blog: The science of staying active into old age”

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

Guest blog: How music can help people living with dementia

632x305_singing_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 “Guest blog: How music can help people living with dementia”

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 “How should we talk about ‘frailty’?”

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

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 “Technology to help at home”