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5 ways we're improving later life

5 ways we're improving later life

We're facing an ageing population crisis, but Newcastle University's researchers are working to keep people happy and healthy as they get older.

Giving older people a voice

Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing works with Voice, which gets the public involved in research, collecting their ideas and experiences to make sure research projects are relevant and useful. It links older people with businesses, researchers, voluntary and community organisations and public bodies through activities that include workshops, surveys and online debate. For example, input from women taking part in workshops with the University’s Innovation Centre for Ageing, the School of Computing Science and Cambridge Consultants led to the development of a concept device called Pebal, which provides instant cooling for menopausal women experiencing hot flushes.

Treating ageing heart attack patients

Dr Vijay Kunadian noticed that while the average age of heart attack patients appeared to be rising, there is little research on how to treat them. An angiogram can help determine the best course of action following a heart attack, but those over 75 are less likely to be given one. Dr Kunadian, Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at the University’s Institute of Cellular Medicine, is conducting a study with heart attack patients over the age of 75 to assess whether having an angiogram is the right approach.

During an angiogram a thin, flexible tube is inserted into the wrist or groin and passed through to the heart to produce an X-ray image of the arteries there. Dr Kunadian is looking for definitive evidence as to whether the benefits of performing an angiogram on this age group (as compared to more conservative treatment approaches) outweigh the risks, since the possibility of bleeding or injury to blood vessels can be more common in older people.

Living better in later life

For some people, living longer means facing ill health, disability and loneliness. The Newcastle University LiveWell programme aims to combat these issues, bringing positivity and value back into the lives of older people. A multidisciplinary team has identified three areas that could improve quality of life: healthy diet, physical activity and social interaction. Retirement from the workforce is a key point at which people may need support and pilot studies have included an assessment of a LEAP (Lifestyle, Eating, Activity, Planning) intervention among 75 people from six companies in Tyneside and Teeside. The team is also developing tools to effectively measure the healthy ageing phenotype.

Preventing falls

Every day in the UK, almost 10,000 people over the age of 65 have a fall. These accidents can lead to broken bones, as well as anxiety and isolation. Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust run one of the largest and busiest services in Europe for people who have falls, blackouts or dizziness, and conduct world-class research into the subject. Professor Julia Newton and Dr James Frith have developed an online course to help people affected by falls, and their carers to reduce the risk of further falls and injuries.

Art and dementia

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK – that number is expected to rise to one million by 2025. Newcastle University is part of a project trying to understand how participation in the visual arts can improve the life of people with dementia. Dementia and Imagination is studying how people in residential care in the north-east, NHS hospitals in Derbyshire and private homes in North Wales benefit from arts programmes. One of the project’s lead investigators, Newcastle University’s Professor of Cultural Gerontology Andrew Newman, has also published many recent papers on how art can build resilience in older age.