Depression: Asking the right questions

An older couple talking

This guest blog from Alison Cranage of the charity MQ: Transforming Mental Health describes a project that aims to uncover the most important issues for depression research. If you, or someone you know, have been affected by depression at any point in your life, MQ would like to hear from you. What issues do you think depression research should address? Your views will help shape future research into the condition.

Continue reading “Depression: Asking the right questions”

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

 

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”