That Age Old Question

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation & Royal Society for Public Health, Vision, Voice & Practice | June 2018 | That Age Old Question: How attitudes to ageing affect our health and wellbeing

That Age Old Question examines prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age and the ageing process. The findings reveal that ageist views are held across generations, and that an ageing society is viewed by many as a challenge rather than an opportunity. Tackling this issue will require a multifaceted approach and that’s why we have made a number of recommendations for tackling ageism aimed at a range of stakeholders, including national and local government, employers, the media, and the voluntary and community sectors.

Age Old Question
Image source: rsph.org.uk

Some of the key points include
Ageism harms the public’s health
• Negative attitudes about age can begin to form among children as young as six years old.
• These attitudes can be generated and reinforced in a number of ways, including:
– negatively framed headlines in the media;
– pressure from the beauty industry to use “anti-ageing” products;
– lack of regular contact between older and younger generations;
– age-based prejudice in the workplace.

Source: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation & RSPH

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Health, ageing and support survey: 2017

Results of Ipsos MORI research into the views of people aged 50 or over on health, ageing and support for 2017 | Department of Health and Social Care

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This report provides the results from an Ipsos MORI survey of the views of people aged 50 or over on health, ageing and support. The survey was conducted on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care, and fieldwork took place between 3 January and 19 February 2017.

Key findings:

  • People aged 50 and over are slightly less positive about their health than a year ago, but still take their physical and mental health seriously. Eating healthily is seen as important for both physical and mental health, though nearly half do not think a healthy lifestyle can prevent dementia.
  • Fewer people than last year say they would take to their GP if they were worried about their memory.
  • Loneliness continues to be seen as a big problem for older people and most think society is not doing enough to prevent it.
  • Views are less positive than a year ago about whether the government has the right policies about care and support services, and about whether care and support services work well with the NHS to provide co-ordinated care.
  • People continue to be more confident about the safety of older people in hospitals than in nursing or residential homes.
  • Concern about meeting the cost of care and support services has increased since last year. However, this has not translated into greater action and people are still not preparing substantially for the financial cost of care and support they might need.

This report is the second of 2 surveys. The first survey took place in 2016.

Full document: Health, ageing and support: survey of views of people aged 50 and over

‘Exergaming’ may help those at risk of Alzheimer’s or related dementias

Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed significant improvement with certain complex thinking and memory skills after exergaming (video games that also require physical exercise) | Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience | via ScienceDaily

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The results of a new study could encourage health care providers to pursue or prescribe exergames (video games that also require physical exercise) in hopes of slowing the debilitating effects of those with MCI, sometimes a stage between normal brain aging and dementia.

Previously published research had found that seniors who exercise using the features of interactive video games experienced greater cognitive health benefits than those who rely on traditional exercise alone.

For the latest study, researchers wanted to target older adults diagnosed with or at risk for MCI.  Researchers initially enrolled more than 100 seniors for the study. Over six months, 14 (evenly split between men and women) persisted with regular exergaming. The average age was 78.

The first group of seven was assigned to pedal along a scenic virtual reality bike path several times a week. The second group was given a more challenging task for the brain: pedal while playing a video game that included chasing dragons and collecting coins.

The results were compared against data collected from a separate group of eight seniors who played video games on a laptop but did not pedal, and also a group from the previous research who only rode a traditional stationary bike with no gaming component.

At the end of the randomized clinical trial, participants in both the group that pedaled along a virtual bike path and those that chased dragons and collected coins experienced significantly better executive function, which controls, in part, multi-tasking and decision making.

Benefits for both groups were also seen for verbal memory and physical function, suggesting it may be worth the effort for seniors to incorporate exergaming into a daily exercise regime.

The authors acknowledged that further research with a larger sample size is needed to confirm the team’s findings.  In the meantime, the research suggests benefits of exercising while also stimulating the brain with some mental challenge, such as navigating a scenic bike path or interactively playing a video game.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Anderson-Hanley, C . et al. The Aerobic and Cognitive Exercise Study (ACES) for Community-Dwelling Older Adults With or At-Risk for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Neuropsychological, Neurobiological and Neuroimaging Outcomes of a Randomized Clinical TrialFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2018; 10

 

Interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older people

Loneliness and social isolation are major problems for older adults. Interventions and activities aimed at reducing social isolation and loneliness are widely advocated as a solution to this growing problem.

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The aim of this study was to conduct an integrative review to identify the range and scope of interventions that target social isolation and loneliness among older people, to gain insight into why interventions are successful and to determine the effectiveness of those interventions.

Six electronic databases were searched from 2003 until January 2016 for literature relating to interventions with a primary or secondary outcome of reducing or preventing social isolation and/or loneliness among older people.

The review identified 38 studies. A range of interventions were described which relied on differing mechanisms for reducing social isolation and loneliness. The majority of interventions reported some success in reducing social isolation and loneliness, but the quality of evidence was generally weak.

Factors which were associated with the most effective interventions included adaptability, a community development approach, and productive engagement.

A wide range of interventions have been developed to tackle social isolation and loneliness among older people. However, the quality of the evidence base is weak and further research is required to provide more robust data on the effectiveness of interventions. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to further develop theoretical understandings of how successful interventions mediate social isolation and loneliness.

Gardiner, C.  Geldenhuys, G.  Gott, M | Interventions to reduce social isolation and loneliness among older people: an integrative review | Health and Social Care in the Community | Volume26, Issue2 | March 2018 | pages 147-157

Peer-support groups improve quality of life among older people

Evidence suggests that peer-support groups can help to increase social connectedness among older people, thus improving their quality of life | Mental Health Foundation

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Image source: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Given that 3.6 million older people live alone in the UK (Age UK. 2018), and the associated health risks of these conditions, such as increased mortality and declining cognitive function, there is a need to further investigate the impact of peer-support groups on the health and wellbeing of older people. The Mental Health Foundation’s Standing Together project was set up to address this through facilitated peer support and activity-based groups.

 

This evaluation sought to understand whether the Standing Together (ST) peer-support groups, which took place between 2015 and 2017, impacted on outcomes related to: lonlieness and social isolation; emotional wellbeing; and meaningful activity.

Findings from the focus groups demonstrated that most participants felt that the groups helped to:

  • combat loneliness by strengthening a feeling of social connectedness and belonging
  • improve wellbeing through discussion among peers and the presence of a kind, caring facilitator
  • provide meaningful, stimulating activities around people with whom they felt comfortable.

Full document: An evaluation of the Standing Together project | Mental Health Foundation

Substance misuse in older people

Our invisible addicts | The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

This report presents up-to-date evidence on the extent of substance-related health problems amongst older people and the services required to deal with the complexity of such problems which often involve co-morbid mental and physical health problems, polypharmacy and psychosocial adversity.

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Image source: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk

The document seeks to build on the progress made over the past six years and to emphasise that including older people with substance problems in national policies is imperative and that there is a need for organisational reform to tackle this issue.

The authors consider and advocate the further development of a clinical workforce with the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes to provide identification, assessment, treatment, and assist in recovery and referral for substance misuse in an older population.

Included within the report are chapters on the following areas:

  • Public health and substance misuse in older people
  • Assessment of substance misuse
  • Treatment
  • Service delivery and development
  • Education and training
  • Ethical and legal considerations for older people with substance misuse

Full report: Our Invisible Addicts (2nd edition)