New UK survey reveals our beliefs about staying sharp in later life

Filling out WKYS survey
Filling out the ‘What Keeps You Sharp?’ survey

This guest post was contributed by Dr Alan J. Gow, Associate Professor in Psychology at the School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University

What keeps you sharp?

That’s an important question for many of us, especially as we get older. It was also the name of a nationwide survey exploring what people expect to happen to their thinking skills as they get older, and the first results from this have just been released.

Over 3000 people across the UK responded to the survey, aged from 40 to 98 years old, and we’ve published these findings in a new report, ‘What Keeps You Sharp?’. Aimed at the public, older peoples’ groups, charities and health professionals, our intention is to help everyone think about their brain health in the same way we’ve become more knowledgeable over recent generations about managing our heart health or lowering our risk of certain cancers.

What did the results say?

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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.

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Tackling malnutrition in our communities

Carers and Residents at Millbrook care home shot for Age UK Training

This week is Nutrition and Hydration Week, an excellent campaign which celebrates food and drink as a way of maintaining health and wellbeing. As part of the Week, the Malnutrition Task Force have written a guest blog looking at malnutrition among older people in the community and highlighting wonderful examples of initiatives that can help tackle this.  

Food is a marvellous thing. Breathing in the scent of our favourite meal and savouring the taste as we eat and enjoy it are two of life’s great pleasures.

Food gives us the energy to keep active, stay mentally alert, and remain physically well, which means fewer visits to the doctors.

Keeping well-nourished and hydrated is so important to each and everyone one of us at every stage of our lives, particularly as we get older.

However, sadly, not everyone is so favoured. Latest estimates show up to 1.3 million of our older friends, relatives and neighbours are malnourished or at risk.

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Age UK’s Personalised Integrated Care Programme is helping older people regain their independence

Meet 77 year old Robert.

Living in Thornton Heath, he was never apart from his wife of 45 years who he was caring for as she had cancer.

However, that was all about to change.

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How can we support people with dementia to live well?

PATLWWD cover

Around 850,000 people are estimated to have dementia in the UK, and that figure is expected to rise to 1 million by 2025.

Rising prevalence has led to a number of new initiatives focussing on the condition. In 2015, the Prime Minister’s Challenge on dementia 2020 set out more than 50 commitments with the hope of making England a world leader in dementia care, research and awareness by 2020.

Efforts like this are starting to reap rewards, and there have been recent improvements in the rates of diagnosis and new funds being developed to research the condition.

However, despite these positive steps, we know people with dementia and their carers still find it hard to get good quality care and support or to lead as active a life in the community as they could.

With this in mind, Age UK started looking at what ‘living well’ meant to people with dementia and their carers, and from there we branched out to find an array of services and approaches that could help them achieve this. Our findings are published in a new report, ‘Promising Approaches to Living Well with Dementia.’

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The Christmas quiz you did not expect

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This blog post was contributed by Angela Kitching, Joint Head of External Affairs at Age UK. 

Christmas time, a time for families to reconnect, to eat together, to chat and to think about the challenges the New Year might bring. I don’t know about you, but in my family that means talking about about some of the conundrums faced by our family and friends. This year they included care arrangements and funding, loneliness, bereavement and ill health. I don’t want you to think we were miserable, we weren’t, there were great parties, lots of food and excited 5 year olds amazed by Father Christmas; but, at Christmas we did also check in with each other about the difficulties our family and friends face. We found the quizzes in the newspapers considerably easier to solve than these tricky family conundrums.

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What should we think about ‘the Four Seasons story’?

Like lots of people with an interest in social care I have been following the travails of Four Seasons over the last few days. For anyone not up to speed, Four Seasons is a major care home provider in this country, with some 17,000 predominantly older residents and 25,000 staff. Four Seasons is now reportedly in financial difficulty and the regulator of the social care sector, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has called for its biggest creditor to confirm that it will stand behind the company and not allow it to collapse. [Although it has since won a reprieve  until April 2018, the uncertainty over its longer-term future continues]. 

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