Longevity Science Summit: care of aging population talks continue

Our dive into Longevity Week’s Science Summit continues…

Last week, Longevity.Technology was lucky enough to attend Longevity Forum’s Science Summit at Oxford’s Oriel College, part of Longevity Week and hosted by Professor Lynne Cox and Jim Mellon. We have showcased some of the impressive longevity research leaders’ presentations already, but there was so much good stuff, here is another helping.

Longevity.Technology: It was clear from the beginning of the day that we have a long living population who are not on a trajectory to become healthy old individuals; but what will this mean for care?

Care needs of an aging population – Professor Adam Gordon 

Adam Gordon is Professor of Care of Older People at the University of Nottingham, a Consultant Geriatrician at the Royal Derby Hospital and President Elect of the British Geriatrics Society. He provides inpatient care for older people presenting as acute medical admissions and those recovering from operations. He was extensively involved in caring for older people with COVID-19 during the pandemic and describes himself and his colleagues as “the physicians of the aged instead of the aging”.  

Gordon’s talk began by speaking about Marjory Warren, the mother of British Geriatric medicine. During 1936, Warren systematically reviewed the several hundred inmates of the old workhouse wards, identifying those with reversible pathologies and providing active rehabilitation for others. “During her first five years on the job, she reduced the capacity of 300 beds in the wards”.

Many of the patients were old and infirm and for these, Warren’s approach was to match care to needs by a system of classification – and so she birthed the comprehensive geriatric assessment: a multidimensional, multidisciplinary assessment designed to evaluate an older person’s functional ability, physical health, cognition and mental health and socioenvironmental circumstances.  

Gordon begun with this story to show that we have been making evidence-based approaches to health and wellbeing in older people with frailty for many years, and the evidence base for Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) is now well established. Further, the emergence of electronic versions of frailty indices that can be embedded in healthcare databases provides the opportunity for big data approaches that can enable us to better understand how older people interact with, and benefit from, health and social care in later life [1]. The next challenge is how we implement these principles across different healthcare contexts.  

Gordon also touched on the fact that cuts to social care services have a direct impact on healthcare services like the NHS. “There is a trade off in social care for healthcare. But improving care in care homes, and at home, can mitigate healthcare demand and prevent ambulances queuing up in front of the hospital doors. We need to understand that”. 

Between 2009−10 and 2017−18, the average number of annual A&E visits for a person aged 65 and above increased by almost a third. Cuts to public spending on social care explain between a quarter and a half of this growth [2].

Care is already on the longevity agenda, but it warrants more attention; with the oncoming silver tsunami getting ever nearer, increased targeting spending on care infrastructure should begin as soon as possible to ensure maximum wellness for an aging population.

We’ll bring you more news and insights from this fascinating summit later this week – stay tuned!

[1] https://www.rcpjournals.org/content/futurehosp/8/2/e237
[2] https://ifs.org.uk/publications/15214