Issue 7: Nov 2013

GROWING OLD AND FALLING APART - IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY....

By Professor Richard Kerley

There can’t be many conferences or events, outside Japanese owned car plants that is, where one of the speakers starts by asking you all to stand up and stand on your tip toes.

Dawn Skelton (dawn.skelton@gcu.ac.uk), Professor of Ageing & Health at Glasgow Caledonian University, had all those attending the MacKay Hannah conference doing just that as she gave a great example to everybody there of how serious academic research could be imported into everyday life.

And needless to say, she also gave some very good, immediate and personal examples of how sometimes health care systems fail to learn from those lessons and therefore fail to put them into effect.

Her topic, in the context of a conference about the "...Opportunities of Ageing" was a powerful presentation that illustrated the extent to which huge improvements could be improved in health and wellbeing by older people are active in many different ways.

In all the health care systems of the various countries of the UK we have seen policy documents urging us to ‘get active'. In Scotland alone, over 10 years we’ve seen 6 major government documents with the words ‘Active‘ or ‘Activity‘ in the title yet there remain many people whose health levels are diminished by lack of such activity.

There are levels of activity recommended for us to take each week, yet a worryingly high proportion of people fail to do so - some studies suggest more than 60% of adults in Scotland and almost 40% of children don’t make those recommended targets.

The positive impact of increased levels of physical activity is striking, as the research reported by Dawn Skelton showed.

  • 3 hours per week of targeted exercise (deliberate, planned exercise with a clear routine) can make a heart attack 3 times less likely and it can reduce the impact of osteoporosis and hip fracture by a factor of 2.
  • And it’s never too late! A 12 week exercise programme for those over 90 doubled their strength as both strength and flexibility are critical to enhanced longer extended health.
  • And it’s more effective than anti-ageing creams! Research shows that in 3 months 60-90 year olds can rejuvenate 20 years of lost strength.
  • And since we all start losing strength from the age of 30, it's never too soon to start.
  • However, as Professor Skelton pointed out the systems we employ in health care and social care systems (globally) seem to militate against achieving these desirable outcomes.
  • Too much hospital time is still spent in "bed rest" when we know that an extended period of one week in bed can reduce leg strength by up to 20%.
  • Go into any long term care home for older people and the image that will often immediately hit you is of people sitting, with all the air of people who have been sitting there a long, long time.
  • That might well be the case, as studies of nursing home residents have been recorded as spending 80-90% of their time sitting down or lying down. Whether in care homes or hospitals, the message seems clear – activity and movement really is the best bet for living longer ...and living healthier.

 

By Professor Richard Kerley

Issue 7: Nov 2013

Issue 7: Nov 2013

HEALTH, WELL BEING AND AGEING: SCOTLAND 2020

Re-energising the move towards integrated care

Scotland's move to integrated care can learn from elsewhere by focussing on two key differentiators between successful partnerships and those paying lip service to integrated working: Shared outcomes and common language is one, the other is demonstrating mutual investments and mutual benefits.

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