Building evidence about the impact of an ageing society
Powerful insights into the impact of an ageing population on society are being achieved at Newcastle University.
As society grapples with the consequences of ageing, major changes will be needed in the way health and social care services are provided and in how resources are spent.
Epidemiology of Ageing
The analytical work carried out by the University's AXA Professor of Epidemiology of Ageing, Carol Jagger, plays a vital role in providing the evidence on which changes could be based.
Epidemiology studies the causes and patterns of disease and deaths among the population. The statistical information it gathers can be used to improve health and social services.
“The emphasis at Newcastle University is on the causes of ageing and age related disease, and interventions to improve the healthy old age experienced by people,” explained Professor Jagger.
“We use healthy life expectancy as an outcome measure because we want the extra years that people are now living to be good and productive years.
“We’re not there yet. What is happening, certainly within the UK at the moment, is that life expectancy is increasing, but healthy life expectancy at older ages is not increasing as fast.”
Professor Jagger is a leading expert in healthy life expectancy and is involved in studies carried out throughout the European Union.
She is also an advisor to the pensions and insurance industry, offering medical understanding and guidance to the actuarial profession and to AXA, which funds her professorship.
Another important area of her work is with the Office of National Statistics. She is on national expert panels for population projections, and reviews many of the reports it produces on healthy life expectancy.
Newcastle 85+ Study
Prior to relocating to the North East from Leicester in 2010, Professor Jagger had been the only academic outside the region to have been involved in the Newcastle 85+ Study. She is the co-author of a key research paper projecting future care needs following its investigations into the health experiences of people aged 85 and over.
“One of the things we found from the study, for example, was that not a single one of our 85- year-olds was free of disease. That doesn’t mean to say that they weren’t functioning well, but that they all had some health problem, and on average they had four or five,” said Professor Jagger.
“Now what does that mean for GPs, who generally want to deal with one problem per consultation? How do you manage an average 85-year-old with four or five conditions?
“And hospital services, who are finding that more older people they are treating for other conditions also have dementia. We need to train hospital staff to be able to recognise and care appropriately for this new group of patients.”
One solution for dealing with multiple conditions, she says, is the ‘whole person’ approach of the Cresta clinics, being pioneered by Newcastle Biomedicine on the Campus for Ageing and Vitality.
Professor Jagger believes Newcastle is an ideal place to create a Centre for Healthy Life Expectancy. This would be able to offer older people better information to plan for their future health and care needs to maximise the quality of their lives in old age.
Contact Carol Jagger about her research.
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