The Global Impact of Ageing: The Oldest Old

In an earlier blog we discussed how people aged over 85 are the fastest-growing segment of the UK population. However, this is not just happening here or in other industrialised nations; rather, it’s a global phenomenon.

Age UK is working with the Gerontological Society of America to invite articles from experts around the world on what is happening, why, and what it means for societies, health and social care services, and policy-makers. These submissions has been published in the recent Public Policy and Aging Report.

blogSome of these submissions looked at comparing life expectancy, disease, and disability trends in the 85+ group across countries. There are many variations, but one commonality across all of these countries is that the average person over 85 is a woman living alone in the community, which means governments and societies will have to think about how to meet growing needs for these people without family to look after them. Continue reading “The Global Impact of Ageing: The Oldest Old”

Guest blog – What alternative treatments work for people with dementia?

This guest blog was contributed by Caroline Lee from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge.

440x210_man-woman-readingThe most debilitating symptoms of dementia affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, yet are also some of the most difficult to treat with medication.

As the health and social care burden of dementia increases, so does interest in alternatives to medication. However, the widespread take up of alternative treatments must be grounded in robust analysis both of health outcomes and of cost-effectiveness.

An off the shelf product claiming to improve memory in early Alzheimer’s disease seems to offer both hope and convenience. However, some of these, including Souvenaid, are governed by the food rather than the drugs industry and, as such, regulated differently.

While these new ‘non-pharmacological products’ are already on the market, potential new drugs remain in clinical trial, and the scientific community continues to strive for new knowledge based on robust evidence of ‘what works’. Continue reading “Guest blog – What alternative treatments work for people with dementia?”

Debt and older people

Traditionally debt has been seen as mainly a concern for younger people with older people more likely to believe you should ‘cut your coat according to your cloth’ and save up for items rather than use credit. However there have been media reports suggesting this may be changing with headlines such as ‘Debt crisis for the over 60s’, and some information and advice services are reporting more older people seeking help with debts.

440x210_tracing_lost_moneyAt Age UK we wanted to find out more about the extent and level of debt in later life and whether this has changed over time. So we commissioned the independent think tank International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) to carry out a detailed analysis looking at debt among people in later life. Continue reading “Debt and older people”

Wising up to what works

We are faced with unprecedented ageing.  Those over 85 will reach 2.8 million by 2030, a doubling of present numbers.  Such numbers are enough to raise panic in the Treasury, if the prevailing scenarios of cost are to be believed.

Conversely, I have always thought that we should celebrate our increased longevity as an enormous success story for society. I have been encouraged in my belief by the increasing evidence of the contribution that older people make and the progress that is being made, albeit slowly, in reducing the years we spend in ill health.

440x210_dr_blood-pressureSpeaking recently with media I was struck by the number of presenters who, like me, concluded that ‘we’re not really ready for this, are we?’  It is one thing to age and another to age well, but the revolution in longevity is going to completely re-structure society.

We will need new solutions, new approaches and most of all new evidence on what truly works.  Simply increasing expenditure in itself is not an option because there is little evidence that much – some would say any – of what we do is cost-effective. Consider the escalating NHS budget: £43.5bn in 1988; £64bn in 1998 and a staggering £120bn (8% of GDP) in 2008 – without any corresponding reduction in demand or focus on outcomes.

Continue reading “Wising up to what works”

Understanding the Oldest Old

In 2012, the Office for National Statistics estimated that there are nearly 1.5 million people aged 85 and over in the UK. We are only at the beginning of an estimated escalation of numbers of people in this age group, projected to reach 5 million by 2050. What was formerly a small number of exceptional individuals is rapidly becoming a whole new generation for families in this country: the ‘Fourth Generation’.

Over recent years, through research, our contact with leading experts, and ourRea3 engagement with older people, it has become apparent to Age UK that we all need to know more about these ‘oldest old’. Often what we hear are stereotypes held over from days gone by – that these oldest people are all frail and in care homes, their useful life over. We are concerned that all of us who make decisions concerning their welfare need help to get up to date with their nature and needs.

So we asked experts to write summaries of what is known in their area of research about the ‘oldest old’. We’ve collected these lay-person summaries into a short book, ‘Understanding the Oldest Old.’ Continue reading “Understanding the Oldest Old”

Guest blog: What burden of ageing?

This guest blog was contributed by Rob Greig, Chief Executive at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)

The area of government policy that has continually depressed me the most (and I’m talking successive governments here) is that around older people and ageing. What we at NDTi call the ‘demographic dialogue’ of public policy and the media creates a culture whereby older people are seen as a problem and a burden on society.

Read almost anything from government policy, think tanks or the national press and you will see older people being described negatively. They are ‘bed blockers’ in hospitals, creating a ‘financial precipice’ in public finances and the cause of a pension system crisis that means younger people will have to work longer. Older people are portrayed as being the cause of problems that government and society have to address.

I beg to differ.  There are 3 fundamental flaws in this perception of older citizens:

  • It sees older people as primarily passive recipients of services provided by the state or wider society, denying or even discouraging their capacity to continue to give to the communities around them.
  • The service and cost modelling is substantially based on an assumption that we will do the same in the future as we have done in the past – rather than explore more innovative options that could change the financial parameters
  • It conveniently appears to forget the contributions that people have made to society, through their work, taxes, caring and creativity. Is it too old-fashioned to still think that society may have some obligation in the form of ‘pay-back’ time that should argue against using the language of burden?

I will put the third point to one side as it is primarily influenced by values and opinions and instead focus on the first two – and tell you about Ted.

Continue reading “Guest blog: What burden of ageing?”

Guest blog – Protected or ignored characteristics?

This blog was contributed by Jo Moriarty, a Research Fellow at King’s College London, in the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. She co-authored the evidence review Diversity in older people and access to services with Unit Director, Jill Manthorpe.

The Equality Act 2010 made existing anti-discrimination legislation simpler and removed inconsistencies. It covers nine so-called ‘protected characteristics’, aspects of our identity such as religion, race, gender, age, or sexuality, which cannot be used as reasons for treating us unfairly.

photo by spruce bingsteenSome older people may avoid asking for help because they think they won’t receive equal treatment, in spite of sharing a particular protected characteristic, such as being gay.

Age UK asked us to investigate whether five key services – falls prevention, home from hospital schemes, handyperson schemes, befriending, and day opportunities – successfully offer support across all older people, regardless of any ‘protected characteristic’.

It seemed a straightforward task. Researchers today have access to masses of material. We can trawl through specialist databases containing thousands of research papers published each year. Many organisations such as Age UK publish their research reports online and for free. Continue reading “Guest blog – Protected or ignored characteristics?”