Manchester showcases its ageing credentials

On 16 March, it was announced that Greater Manchester had gained World Health Organisation status to become the UK's first age-friendly city region. This means we are a place committed to enabling older people to actively participate in their community, to stay connected, to stay healthy and active, to provide appropriate support to those who need it, and to treat everyone with respect regardless of age.

To mark this achievement, the region is holding a Festival of Ageing - and The University of Manchester has just had a week of major activities which highlighted its enormous strength and depth of ageing research.

British Society of Gerontology Conference

The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford jointly hosted the 47th Annual Conference of the British Society of Gerontology, themed around ‘Ageing in an Unequal World’. Reflecting contemporary concerns from researchers, scholars, practitioners and older people around the world about the injustices associated with ageing in an unequal world, the conference questioned how to influence and shape environments for ageing people in the future.

The strength and depth of ageing research in social gerontology at the University was apparent, with two keynote speakers and more than 50 scientific papers and posters presented by our researchers. For the second year running, the prestigious British Society of Gerontology Stirling Prize for the best student poster at the Conference was won by a University of Manchester PhD student, Nadine Mirza.

“We were delighted to bring the most important annual scholarly meeting in the UK in the field of social and behavioural gerontology conference to Manchester - it was a fantastic week for those of us involved in research into ageing, with activities all over the City, a conference Fringe event, a public photography exhibition, a high level meeting of 30 European Cities around what we are doing here in Manchester on the ageing agenda, and of course the conference itself,” said Professor Debora Price, President of the British Society of Gerontology and Director of the University of Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA).

I was very proud of our ability to show the world what we are doing here – both at the University, and across the city and region. We have the unique capability here to link our research, policy and practice communities, and this collaboration formed an important part of the conference. I am so grateful to everyone who made this possible.
Professor Debora Price

New Policy Research Unit announced

A new Older People & Frailty Policy Research Unit was announced during the week’s activities. £5m of funding from the National Institute for Health Research will enable the unit, led by Manchester with Newcastle University and the London School of Economics, to explore how the health needs of the ageing population are to be met.

The unit aims to ensure that the government and other bodies have the best possible information and evidence available when making policy decisions about health and social care. The researchers will work closely with policymakers on the needs of older people and the people who provide care for them - this includes patients, carers and the public, who will be part of the research throughout.

“The funding of this research unit offers a huge opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of older people and those with frailty,” said Professor Chris Todd, Director of the new unit. “We have brought together world-leading researchers who will dedicate themselves to advancing policy-related research so as to make a real difference by working with the Department of Health and Social Care to promote healthy ageing.

”An existing Health and Care Systems and Commissioning policy research unit also received £5 million in funding, which will fund further research into the structures and organisation that underpin how the health and care systems work for the next five years.

EU Falls Festival 2018

Falls amongst older people are an important health issue for Europe and the rest of the world - they are a major cause of injuries, disabilities and even deaths amongst older people, and a major cost for health services. The European Falls Festival has been launched as a celebration of innovations in tackling this important problem.

The festival brought together leading academics, researchers, health care practitioners, clinicians, industry representatives and stakeholders from across the globe to celebrate best practice research and innovation in the study and implementation of falls prevention in older people.

Major new report into muscle and bone strengthening

The Falls Festival saw the launch of a new report, which has found that muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities have great health benefits for older adults.

The evidence review commissioned by Public Health England and the Centre for Ageing Better found that poor muscle strength in people over 65 increases their risk of a fall by 76%, and those who have already had a fall are three times more likely to fall again. It found that strengthening and balance activities not only help to prevent this, but also improve mood and sleeping patterns, increase energy levels and reduce the risk of early death.

“It’s clear that we need to give equal weighting to activities that boost muscle and bone strength and improve balance rather than simply focusing on aerobic exercise,” said Jess Kuehne, Senior Engagement Manager at the Centre for Ageing Better. “There is significant potential to make savings to health and social care services if we do more to promote muscle strengthening and balance activities and recognise their role in helping to keep people healthy and independent for longer, particularly as they age.”

MICRA annual lecture

The University is the home of the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA) - their annual public lecture took place last week, presented by Professor Christina Victor from Brunel University.

She noted that the way we talk about loneliness has changed dramatically in recent years – initially it was perceived as a social problem of old age, and this had changed into us thinking of it as a public health problem with consequences for the very future of the NHS. She controversially argued that there was little or no evidence to support this interpretation, nor to show that the interventions we are designing are successful - and warned against simplistic understandings of this very complex problem.

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