‘Healthier for Longer’, a new report published by the British Geriatrics Society, examines how messages of prevention and healthy ageing apply to an older population group that may already be ill and frail, and to the healthcare professionals who care for them.
The prevention agenda, which has been highlighted as a priority for the Government and for health services, is explored in the report and shown to be as relevant to the older population as it is to younger age groups. While the gains of prevention in relation to older people’s health may be modest in terms of years of life gained, the impact in terms of quality of life is likely to be significant.
Key themes of the report include lifestyle factors (such as physical activity, smoking and alcohol), the basics of daily living (such as sleep and eye health) and medical interventions (such as polypharmacy and preoperative care). While the benefits of prevention in younger populations may take many years to come to fruition, prevention measures in older people, even those who are already ill and/or living with frailty, can produce immediate results.
The report also highlights the following five steps that all healthcare professionals can take to help promote healthy ageing and prevention in later life:
‘Care at every contact’ – every touchpoint of care is a potential opportunity to help people to engage in their own health and work with others to improve it.
‘Cover the basics’ – older people need to be able to see, hear, eat, drink and sleep well even if other more complex health issues are being addressed.
‘Consider the whole person’ – healthcare issues may not be the only or even the most pressing concern for a patient. Ask what matters to them and how they can be supported.
‘Communicate clearly’ – tell older people what is going on and how they can help with improving their health.
‘Collaborate with others’ – work with colleagues, nursing and therapy teams, families and the older person themselves to give the best chance of recovery and independence.
Professor Tahir Masud, President of the British Geriatrics Society, commented:
“It is never too late to start adopting preventative health measures and this report provides practical, highly relevant guidance to help healthcare professionals promote healthy ageing to all the older people they care for, including those who are ill and/or living with frailty. Prevention has been a government priority in recent years and it is essential that this includes older people who could potentially see significant, immediate benefits in terms of quality of life. We are urging all healthcare professionals to review the report, and implement the five simple steps recommended, to help their patients remain healthier for longer.”
Professor Martin J Vernon, Consultant Geriatrician and National Clinical Advisor, Ageing Well Programme, NHS England and Improvement, commented:
“This important new BGS report is timely, pragmatic and hugely helpful in setting out how to go about supporting older people to get the best from their life. We can’t stop ourselves ageing- it’s a natural process- but we can certainly influence HOW we age, meaning we should do all we can to support people to retain resilience and functional ability for as long as possible. This BGS report clearly sets that out with illustrative examples to guide us. I am extremely pleased to commend the report to you- please read it, keep a copy close by, deploy its guidance liberally and share it widely to make healthier ageing business as usual for everyone!”