This new report, which is the result of a project involving an expert panel of researchers, funders and public health policymakers, outlines concerns that the Government is too focused on responding reactively to ageing, rather than being proactive in challenging the ageing process itself.
The step change required to meet the government’s target will require putting physiological research at the heart of the response. Physiological research into the processes underpinning ageing and age-related conditions as diverse as dementia and arthritis is key to providing answers to many of the questions that will need solving.
The report produced a number of key findings related to public health, including:
- – There is a gap between physiological insight and policy decision making.
- – Significant sections of the population do not engage with healthy ageing campaigns or recognise the impact of positive lifestyle changes to the quality of later life.
- – Those that are socioeconomically disadvantaged are less likely to be engaged in activities and lifestyles that promote healthy ageing.
The report includes a number of recommendations to keep people living healthier, for longer, including:
- – A greater focus across national and local government on preventative care to reduce the likelihood of health problems occurring.
- – Improved public health guidance by providing personalised, tailored advice based on physiological evidence.
- – Joined up healthcare to deliver an integrated approach to the care of older people before, during and after periods of poor health.
For example, only 10% of those aged over 65 in the UK meet the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for physical activity of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. This impacts not only muscle strength but has a significant impact on an older person’s immune system. Research from CMAR members and collaborators at UCL have demonstrated that study participants who maintain high levels of physical activity throughout middle and older age had higher levels of immune hormones important for maintaining immunity. This immunity is important for vaccine efficacy, warding off infections and viruses and lowering cancer risk.
Professor Paul Greenhaff, Chair of the Growing Older, Better Expert Group, noted:
“Ensuring that we understand the current landscape and have a clear picture about what needs to change to ensure physiology is at the heart of meeting the challenges of an ageing society is a crucial first step.”
The full report can be downloaded from the Physiological Society website