Research to improve lives of older people

January 8, 2020

Researchers from Northumbria University are asking adults aged 65 or over to assist with their latest research into reducing loneliness in older people and improving function in everyday tasks.

There are nearly 12 million people aged 65 and above in the UK. In 50 years, it's projected that there will be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over – a population roughly equivalent to the size of London.

In response to the prominence of the health and wellbeing of the UK’s ageing population on the policy and political agenda, two new studies at Northumbria University will aim to help older people age more healthily. Included in the research will be topics such as the wellbeing, stress, mobility, everyday functioning, nutritional supplementation and personal social networks among others.

Two Psychology PhD students are therefore looking for research participants, asking those living in the North East to become volunteer participants in their studies.

The first of the two studies will develop an intervention that aims to reduce loneliness and its negative health implications in those aged over 65 by analysing their personal social networks.

According to previous research, over 1 million older people say they always or often feel lonely, while a study by Age UK showed that nearly half of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company. Other research has revealed that loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The first phase of this study involves a one to two hour visit, during which participants will be asked to provide details about their relationships with those close to them as well as answering questions about their wellbeing via a computer survey.All those who take part will be entered into a draw to win one of four £250 prizes.

The information provided will be used to test an intervention involving Skype contact with that network member in comparison to a stranger and a control activity to determine its effectiveness.

The second Healthy Ageing research project will evaluate the effectiveness of multi-nutrient supplement on a range of everyday functions, in caregivers and non-caregivers aged 70 or over.

Nutritional supplementation may provide a way to improve everyday functioning in older adults and older adult caregivers. However, no research to date has investigated the effectiveness of multi-nutrient supplementation on improving any age- or stress-related detriments in this population group.

In this project, adults aged 70 and over are being asked to take part in a lab-based study. This involves two testing visits to the University, lasting approximately two hours each, with 12 weeks in between each visit, and one five minute visit between these two visits. To thank participants for taking part they will receive either £50 or £65, depending on which aspects of the study are completed.

Anyone interested in taking part in either of the studies should contact the researchers as follows:

  • Reducing loneliness in older people: a.beecham@northumbria.ac.uk
  • Improving every day functioning through supplements: s.docherty@northumbria.ac.uk

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