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Healthy Ageing research group: research themes

We cover a range of themes in our research into healthy ageing.

We cover a range of themes in our research into healthy ageing.

The demographic shift in the ageing of the UK and Europe specifically, and the world population generally, provides a major challenge to health services.

Improving standards and quality of healthcare for older people is at the core of the group's research, particularly how services are delivered and organised, with a focus on achieving effective self-management.

Our research is underpinned by government and EC-led initiatives that promote active and healthy lifestyles among older people.

We also focus on identifying how best to implement effective exercise programmes, and clarify the mechanisms involved in motivating older people to take part in maintaining their own physical activity levels. In this area, the group has a developing interest in gerontechnologies.

Thematic aims are to:

  • Develop interventions to promote active and healthy ageing, assist older people to maintain independence, promote quality of life and ensure active participation in society.
  • Promote equity, especially by investigating determinants of access to services and treatments as they relate to ageing.
  • Inform policy and practice for older people locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Involve the public and patients in research.

Specialist areas

Falls and fall prevention

Major studies include:

  • epidemiology of falls in specific populations
  • development of interventions to reduce falls risk
  • use of smartphone technologies in falls prediction
  • detection assessment and prevention
  • exergaming to prevent falls and improve function
  • intervention studies following the MRC Framework/guidance for complex interventions
  • evaluation of the implementation of a large scale international programme promoting best practice.

This work is also at the forefront, methodologically, in the development of the very widely used measure of fear of falling, the FES-I instrument.

Activity and exercise promotion

Promoting physical activity is a core falls prevention strategy, while also providing other health and social benefits.

These studies have focused on the barriers and motivators to the uptake of and adherence to exercise and physical activity interventions, to maximise the impact of effective interventions in the population.

Currently, this work is closely related to the falls theme, exercise and physical activity for other conditions in ageing, and reduction of functional decline in ageing.

Musculo-skeletal conditions

As well as work on rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis related to falls, we also work on projects to support patients with osteoarthritis and management of chronic pain.

Novel technologies

In addition to wearable and environmental sensor technologies related to falls, members of the group work with the Photon Institute on novel fibre-optic technologies in gait and physiological function measurement. 

Our gerontechnology research focuses on:

  • mobile phone, ICT-based m-health systems
  • development and testing of exergaming (gamified tele-rehabilitation) technologies
  • novel detector systems for use in hospitals and long stay care.

Other work has explored how to develop dashboards (visualisations of data) to help home care nurses with decision-making for patients with heart failure.

We have also started to explore work around the delivery and evaluation of remote rehabilitation.

Residential care

This research investigates the use of technology to promote independence in people living with dementia in supported environments, and choice and decision-making at diagnosis.

Access to services and treatments

Our work on older women's access to breast cancer services has revealed the underlying mechanisms. It has highlighted that older women do not access breast cancer treatments based on age rather than clinical condition.

Work on infection control in home care settings, in collaboration with colleagues at Columbia University and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York in the USA, has developed a risk prediction tool for identifying patients receiving care in their homes who are at higher risk of developing infections.

Alongside investigating how home care nurses carry out infection control practices in a home setting, this work will enable organisations to target interventions to reduce infection risks for this patient population.