England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, in his annual report (published on 10 November 2023), says we need to focus on how to maximise independence and minimise time in ill-health between people reaching older age and the end of their lives.
Quality, enjoyment and independence should be the principal aimsHealth in an Ageing Society
The report, for which UK Ageing Research Funders’ Forum members provided substantial input, calls for research into multimorbidity, frailty and social care to be accelerated. It also highlights some significantly under-researched areas: musculoskeletal conditions including osteoporosis and muscle loss, hearing impairment and research into the major current causes of dementia, its prevention and early treatment. It goes on to say that there has been “too little investment into infection in older adults, and in particular into urinary tract infections which are a major cause of sepsis and reduced quality of life in many older people, especially women, as well as into cellulitis and pneumonia in older age”.
Three recommendations about future research needs are worth highlighting. The first is that it should be unacceptable to have exclusion criteria based on older age or common comorbidities. The second is that research into multimorbidity, frailty and mental health needs to be accelerated. Thirdly, social care research needs to be a core component of health research programmes. The lack of inclusion of social care in health research is a significant gap.Professor Chris Whitty
The report makes the case that older people are currently underserved in health care, with less accessible transport links and insufficient infrastructure designed for older adults, including housing, underlining that services and environments suitable for older adults in these areas is an absolute priority if we wish to maximise the period all older citizens have in independence.
Today’s report from the Chief Medical Officer provides a timely “call to arms” for those of us working to support research into understanding the mechanisms of ageing and improving health and social care for older people. We’re delighted that its key themes reflect our own strategic priorities and we at the Dunhill Medical Trust are committed to continuing with our investment in increasing capacity in ageing-related research and supporting those who choose to focus their careers in this important area.Susan Kay, Chief Executive, Dunhill Medical Trust