How dance classes can be of real benefit to older people

We were pleased to read the news at the weekend reporting that the NHS is recommending dance classes for older people to help them to stay fit and healthy and reduce their risk of having a fall.

We certainly need to do something to prevent falls and fractures among the over-65s as they account for over 4 million hospital bed days each year in England alone and are a serious threat to older people’s self-confidence and independence: about 1 in 10 older people who have fallen are afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.

Only 10% of the older population do as much physical exercise as is recommended by doctors and research with older people has also found that dance classes are much more popular and engaging than traditional falls prevention programmes. For many older people, an approach which is about being active and social can be much more appealing than simply trying to prevent something.

Continue reading “How dance classes can be of real benefit to older people”

Home accidents amongst older adults

The guest blog is written by Anna McConnell, a Product and Service Research Associate with Engage Business Network, Age UK. She is working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Brunel University and Age UK.

Stories regarding the living standards of older people have been hitting the news with uncomfortable regularity. The recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report found that the home care of many older people often fails to reach basic standards. This report, among others, highlights a lack of regard and understanding of the needs of older people in our society, and without addressing these areas it is possible that standards will not rise and the isolation and loneliness that many experience will continue.

Until 2002, The Department of Trade and Industry published nationwide accident data, broken down by kind, severity and age. This data provided a useful insight into the areas of potential danger in the home for many older people. The last report of this kind was the 24th Report of the Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System which estimated that in 2002, 750 000 people aged over 75 were treated in Accident and Emergency in the UK. Falls were found to be the most common causes for hospital admissions, accounting for over sixty percent of accident related deaths, with a fifth of falls amongst women aged over 50 resulting in hospitalisation for bone fractures. Kitchens and stairs were shown as the locations of the most serious accidents whilst the living and bedrooms were the most common places for home accidents.

The HLASS report represents an extensive accident data collection across eighteen UK hospitals. Unfortunately, there are several issues which might reduce the reliability of the data:

The age of research means many changes since 2002, including:

  • Increasing population of over 65s (under 9 million in 1995 to 10.3 million in 2011)
  • Medical advances
  • An economic downturn, affecting the stock market and private pensions
  • A sharp rise in the cost of living (including fuel, inflation, cost of food)
  • The focus of the report is on cases requiring hospitalisation, so a large number of minor injuries may not be included
  • The age classification of 15 to 64 is too large and will prevent the efficient analysis of injuries amongst younger old people aged between 50 and 64.

Older people are more susceptible to injury than the population as a whole and they tend to be more seriously physically and emotionally affected by accidents. Older people, for example, are more likely to break a bone as a consequence of an accidental injury than the rest of the population, perhaps explaining a common fear of repeated injury amongst many older people.

Interestingly, the emotional consequences of accidents amongst older people can often be more severe than the physical ones, especially for women. Accidents can often reduce a person’s confidence, leading to decreased social interaction and self-esteem, and loss of independence and confidence. In severe cases these symptoms can results in long-term conditions such as depression, which affects women more than men.

The 24th Report is now dated and although it can still provide a partial overview of common accidents amongst older people, new research is needed to deal with current trends. It is unclear why accident data collection and publication stopped in 2002, especially given the unprecedented demographic changes that the UK is experiencing and the financial burden on the NHS.

Collecting this data will have represented a significant cost to the National Health Service but despite the costs, this data is crucial in building a picture of the lives of older people and designing inclusive products that can reduce injuries and dramatically improve quality of life of older people, who often live alone and can feel isolated from the communities they live in. Therefore new quantitative and qualitative research is required in order to fully understand home injuries amongst older people and design effective and non-stigmatising product and service solutions that could reduce the numbers of accidents in the home.

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Watch Your Step for Falls Awareness Week 2011

This guest post has been written by Amy Charters, Age UK’s Health Development Officer.

Exercises as part of Falls Awareness WeekSadly, it’s true that falling is a natural part of ageing. Around 30% of people over 65 and 50% of over-80s will fall each year, often with devastating consequences.

After a fall, an older person has a 50% probability of having their mobility seriously impaired and a 10% probability of dying within a year.

The emotional effects can be equally disturbing. Loss of confidence can lead to social isolation, with around 78,000 afraid to leave the house due to a fear of falling.

With the number of cases being so high it’s not surprising that the cost incurred by falls is so great: the current bill to the NHS and associated agencies is £1.8 billion a year; a figure which is expected to rise significantly over the coming years due to the UK’s ageing population.

Despite these facts, and the common belief among young and old alike to the contrary, falls are not inevitable. Continue reading “Watch Your Step for Falls Awareness Week 2011”

5 reasons NHS commissioning is failing late old age

On Tuesday the Health Select Committee inquiry on NHS commissioning heard from Age UK, alongside Mind, National Voices and the Patients’ Association. I was asked how the NHS could save £20 billion over the next four years, without harming healthcare. In my response I argued that savings on this scale would only be possible if we fundamentally change what and how the service commissions, in order to equip the NHS for an ageing nation. I set out five giant failings in NHS support for later life today: Continue reading “5 reasons NHS commissioning is failing late old age”

Changing one thing in Rochdale

It takes just 2 hours to get to Manchester from London and only another 20 minutes to get to Rochdale by train. But when we arrive at the small cul-de-sac of bungalows, it feels a long way from Westminster and the Comprehensive Spending Review. But it is in places like this that the impact will be felt.

Welcome to RochdaleMy colleague and I are in Rochdale to meet with a group of older people. The driving force behind the group – I’ll call him Mr Jones – contacted Age UK because he was concerned about the state of the little cul-de-sac where he and his neighbours live.

I’m hoping that the group will take up our new Change One Thing campaign. We’re going to be supporting local groups of people in later life to campaign to make their neighbourhoods better.

We know from a wealth of research that the things older people say they need in their areas are often very practical – public transport to get around, benches and seats, accessible public toilets, and so on. We want to help groups identify the one thing which would make the most difference and run a local campaign to change it. (Hence the name!)

We’ve arranged to meet at the house of Mr Jones’ next-door-neighbour. While she makes us a cup of tea, Mr Jones pops across the cul-de-sac to gather the others. In the end we have a group of four.

We start to explore the problems that they face. Graffiti, litter and poor service from council and housing association contractors are all mentioned.

Two themes emerge from what they say. One is the degree to which they depend on ‘the powers that be’ (mostly the council and the housing association) for things like household repairs and maintenance, and the constant battle they feel they are waging to be heard by those powers.

The other is the support they give each other, and the sense of community they obviously have. I’m interested to see what the Big Society might look like here.

After quite some discussion, and with our encouragement, they settle on one issue to tackle: the poor state of the pavements in the cul-de-sac. Then we go on to think about who could deliver this, and how they can go about organising a campaign to persuade them.

If they can organise themselves, and stay focused, I think they have a reasonable chance of success. After all, in many ways, it’s a no brainer – the cost of repairing a few pavements is trivial compared to the cost of treating a hip fracture, or of providing home care to someone who is unable to get out and about after a fall.

But with cuts to council budgets inevitable, I have a nasty feeling that pavement repairs is exactly the kind of thing which may just not happen in the future. Let’s hope that councils will take the challenge of seeing the big picture.