The number of people over 80 is going to increase significantly in the next ten years with little increase in healthy life expectancy in prospect. This has huge implications for health and social care services. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! The body of evidence is strong and suggests that the incidence of the major causes of disability and dependency can be prevented or delayed, meaning we can live longer, in better health and as such, compressing the period at the end of life when we are heavily dependent on others.
The Live Longer Better programme is based on the evidence that ageing by itself is not a cause of major problems until the nineties. The problem is down to:
- Loss of fitness,
- Disease, complicated by accelerated by loss of fitness, and
- Negative thinking.
Mission and goals
The Live Longer Better programme has three main aims.
The first is to increase activity (physical, cognitive and emotional) which will:
- Help people feel and function better, this year
- Prevent or delay the onset of dementia, disability and frailty
- Focus on the three Rs: regain what they lost during lockdown, recover the strength stamina and suppleness they have lost in the last decade, and recondition the body that disease and inappropriate activity has deconditioned
The second is to increase healthy life expectancy and compress the period of dependency.
The third is to reduce the need for health and social care because a person with greater strength, stamina, skill and suppleness has greater resilience and is less likely to need acute care.
Activity is key
Activity, physical, cognitive and emotional, is of vital importance in achieving optimal ageing. Getting more active plays a crucial role in closing the gap between your actual level of ability and your best possible level of ability by preventing loss of fitness or regaining lost fitness, both physical and mental.
A normal process, starting as the dominant theme from about the age of 30. Ageing results in a decrease in maximal ability (such as the maximum heart rate or muscle strength) and loss of reserve and the ability to adapt to challenges, or resilience. Scientists call this process senescence.
Results from inactivity. Lost of fitness causes a loss of maximal ability and a loss of reserve or resilience. These are very similar to the effects of ageing which is one reason these two processes are often confused. Increasingly the focus is on three types of fitness – physical, cognitive and emotional.
An abnormal process, sometimes related to ageing but more often due to lifestyle and environmental factors which become more important the longer a person is exposed to the factors.
A distinctive health state related to the ageing process in which multiple body systems gradually lose their inbuilt reserves. Frailty is the presence of three or more out of five indicators: weakness (reduced grip strength), slowness (gait speed), weight loss, low physical
A social process, influenced by personal beliefs and social culture, including the impact of deprivation.
What to avoid
‘The elderly’ is used very loosely to describe an ageing population as a single entity. It reflects and perpetuates prejudices about all people with a single characteristic. While it might be useful sometimes to generalise about people of a certain age group, problems result from any attempt to describe the ageing population as a single entity because of the huge age range, from 65 (or sometimes 55) to 105.
Avoid… Using negative imagery that depict frailty and dependency on care.
Instead… Use positive icons and images, like those available from the Centre for Ageing Better.