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Healthy ageing

Supporting Healthy Ageing

It is projected that by 2040 nearly one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 or over. Demographic changes have been driven – at least in-part – by significant improvements in life expectancy, which in the UK has increased from 70.0 for men and 76.0 for women since 1980, to over 79.0 and 82.5 respectively.

We've released guidance on ageing and the workplace for occupational physicians

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Improvements in life expectancy are a cause for celebration, though too often these extra years of life are spent in poor health and/or social isolation. A comprehensive public policy approach is therefore required to ensure the health and wellbeing of a population that includes a greater proportion of older people.

Action in this area needs to extend to more than just the absence of disease; it should look to support the ability and opportunity for people to play an active role in society and shape their own lives as they grow older.


Growing older in the UK

This series of expert-authored briefing papers explore a range of topics relevant to supporting and improving people’s health and wellbeing as they grow older in the UK.

Download background and introduction

Download the full report

Parliamentary and stakeholder engagement

The BMA hosted a stakeholder roundtable event in the House of Lords to debate the initial findings of the report and discuss what actions were required to support healthy ageing in the UK.

Read our summary of the event

Read key messages and download the individual briefing papers below:

  • Older people and the social determinants of health

    Key messages:

    • The cumulative experience of unequal social, economic and environmental circumstances throughout life contribute to health inequalities in older age.
    • Many of the social determinants that influence the health and wellbeing of older people in later life are amenable to change.
    • Preventative interventions, such as improving access to good quality environments, employment, housing, and social connectedness, are likely to see health benefits throughout the life course including in later life and are likely to ease demand on health services.
    • Clear opportunities exist for doctors and other health professionals to become active in helping to address the social determinants of health through social prescribing, advocacy at a local and national policy level, working in partnership with communities and organisations, and integrating legislative levers, such as the Health and Social Care Act, 2012 and the Social Value Act, 2012 into NHS strategic frameworks and working practices.
    Download the briefing paper
  • Health and social care services that support the needs of older people

    Key messages:

    • Whilst there is substantial evidence that population ageing does not cause unsustainable inflation of health and social care budgets, cuts in local government services are deep and having effects on whole services. Cost and patient shunting practice are likely to undermine further the parlous state of local government finances.
    • When talking about ‘integration’, it is important to clearly set out what is being integrated with what or whom.
    • It is important to be mindful of the stresses inherent in services that do not know what is happening to their contracts or futures. Communities of practice or similar local initiatives can help practitioners understand each other’s demands and pressures.

    Download the briefing paper

  • Older people’s mental health and wellbeing

    Key messages:

    • By 2015, 850,000 people were estimated to be living with dementia in the UK. The emphasis in dementia services recently has been to increase the early identification and diagnosis of dementia. Services have been criticised for failing to keep pace with referral numbers and a lack of post-diagnostic support.
    • In supporting older people with mental health conditions there is a need to consider the importance of ‘triple integration’; integration of health and social care, primary and specialist care, and physical and mental health care.
    • A continued focus is required on ensuring parity of esteem between physical and mental health. This should be reflected in the quantity, quality, and depth of teaching delivered on geriatric medicine and older adult mental health at undergraduate and postgraduate level.
    • Other important principles are to take services to the person and support them in their own context, and to embed health promotion initiatives within services.

    Download the briefing paper

  • Living with long term conditions

    Key messages:

    • Demographic changes have resulted in greater number of older people living longer with more disability and often with two or more long term conditions.
    • The training and education of all clinicians should acknowledge future demographics, and include sufficient focus on the key principles of geriatric medicine to ensure all doctors are aware of the specific needs of older patients.
    • There is a good case for regarding frailty as a long term condition. Comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) – a multidisciplinary, diagnostic process to describe the medical, psychological and functional capabilities of a frail older person – should be used to design a coordinated, integrated plan for long term treatment and follow up.
    Download the briefing paper
  • The perception of ageing and age discrimination

    Key messages:

    • Perceptions of ageing can subject older people to patronising forms of prejudice, which may be expressed in the language and tone used to communicate with older patients, the settings in which they are placed and the framing of treatment options.
    • Health care professionals and organisations should be aware that older individuals are potentially vulnerable to age prejudice and stereotyping processes.
    • Healthcare could benefit from much more deliberative questioning of age-based assumptions and of how attitudes interact with policies, structures and practice.

    Download the briefing paper

  • Supporting carers

    Key messages:

    • 1.4 million people in the UK provide over 50 hours of care per week. Although the vast majority of people caring are of working age, the fastest growing group of carers are those over the age of 65 growing at a rate of 35% in just 10 years.
    • I dentification of carers by healthcare professionals in all settings and across all disciplines remains a priority so that interventions and better tailored responses can be put in place.
    • There should be a focus on developing a ‘carer friendly health service’, whereby carers are identified, provided with adequate information and advice, and their expertise listened to and respected. Carers should also be supported to look after their own health, as well as that of the person they are caring for.

    Download the briefing paper