Older people are not only living longer: positive results in the temporal trends of physical functioning

Giola Santoni is a researcher on health status and health trends in older people. She has worked at the Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and she is currently a biostatistician at the same institute.

Anna-Karin Welmer is associate professor and senior university lecturer at Karolinska Institutet. She is vice-principal investigator of the Swedish National study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen (SNAC-K) population-study. Anna-Karin’s primary area of research interest is the epidemiology of physical function, disability and falls in older persons.

Despite the rapid gain in life expectancy in the last century, it is not clear if the added years consist of healthy years or years lived in poor health and disability.

Previous studies have reported stable or even declining levels of disability. However, disability is defined as the inability to perform basic activities of daily living independently in the environment a person lives. Disability trends can therefore be influenced by changes in the environment such as development of technical equipment. To what extent does the encouraging trend towards declines in disability in the older population reflect actual improvements in physical function? Continue reading

Spring Speakers Series: The meaning of life expectancy

John Gladman is Professor of the Medicine of Older People, Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing and Honorary Consultant in Health Care of Older People at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. He will be speaking at the upcoming BGS Spring Meeting in Nottingham.

Is getting old about decline or about personal growth?

At the BGS Spring Meeting in Nottingham, the organisers have, perhaps unwisely, asked me to give a lecture. I presume I was asked in view of the large and active research group in academic geriatrics in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester for which I have become the titular head (I think that’s what they call me). I intend to abuse this honour by ruminating on a few things that puzzle me as I approach my dotage and probably won’t mention our research at all. Continue reading

Societal changes to the way we perceive death

Anthea Gellie and her co-authors form an eclectic team of researchers from diverse backgrounds including Medicine, Psychology, Science, and Humanities. Their paper Death: A Foe to be conquered? Questioning the paradigm reflects on changing attitudes to death and the need for a change to the current paradigm. Anthea tweets at @AntheaGellie

Whittington on his death bed - Thomas Brewer. Courtesy of the Mercers’ Company.  Photograph by Louis Sinclair.

Whittington on his death bed – Thomas Brewer. Courtesy of the Mercers’ Company. Photograph by Louis Sinclair.

There are few certainties in life—death is one of them. It is worth reminding ourselves of this age old maxim in a time when medical knowledge and technology have extended the possibilities of medical care; and when most people survive to advanced age and die in hospital, not at home. Our views on death have become skewed.

We sit at an unparalleled juncture in history, in which most of us can expect to live to old age. Compare this to medieval Britain, where life expectancy was just 30 years. It is not uncommon now, however, to survive to middle age before personally experiencing the death of a loved one. Advances in modern medicine allow us to live well with chronic illness, but we also run the risk that the lives of frail older people are prolonged to the point where life becomes a burden. Dying people often fear ‘lingering on’ unnecessarily, and have priorities such as retaining a sense of control and not being a burden on their loved ones. Yet in the medical setting, we can often overlook the wishes of a patient to have a peaceful death. Continue reading

March issue of Age and Ageing journal out now

The March 2014 issue of Age and Ageing, the journal of the British Geriatrics Society is out now.

A full table of contents is available here, with editorials, research papers, reviews, short reports, case reports book reviews and more. Hot topics this issue include:

  • Sensor technology and falls
  • Postgraduate training in dementia
  • Gender, frailty and life expectancy
  • Secular changes in alcohol consumption
  • Music-based exercise and cognition

The Editor’s Overview can be read here.

This issue’s free access papers are:


Ageing: More life or just more years?

Professor Malcolm Jackson is a research scientist and Head of the University of Liverpool Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease. His particular research interests are in understanding the mechanisms behind loss of skeletal muscle mass and function as we age.  Looking ahead to the University’s public debate on “Ageing: more life or just more years?” he considers the recent dramatic increase in average age in a city such as Liverpool and the major choices we face in the near future.shutterstock_1733803

The 20th century was marked by a remarkable increase in human life expectancy – to the extent that it is calculated to be increasing at the rate of approximately 5 hours every day in the UK. This is partly the result of scientific advances. Knowledge of the way our bodies work is becoming more and more detailed and scientists are specialising to an extraordinary degree and developing a basic understanding of the processes that cause ageing and of interventions that can potentially have huge impact on the length of our lives. Continue reading