Age and Ageing Specialty Group Mission Statement
To achieve a beneficial impact on quality of life for older people by ensuring that they have the opportunity to know about and participate in relevant high quality clinical research, particularly studies of age-related diseases and disabilities.
Age and Ageing Specialty Group Scope
The Age and Ageing Specialty Group’s unique areas of research activity are:
Healthy ageing and frailty; organising and delivering interventions for health promotion; the ageing process and early markers of ill health; modelling links between disease and functioning; the effectiveness of clinical and social care, education and lifelong learning; and environmental conditions for ageing well.
- Supporting Age & Ageing Research across the NIHR portfolio
In addition, the Age and Ageing group brings added value to studies led by other groups and networks in: dementia, stroke, heart failure and osteoporosis.
- Supporting the inclusion of older people in research
To ensure the inclusion of older people at the cutting edge of pharmaceutical and digital technology research.
The group’s statement of scope has been informed by the FUTURAGE Road Map for European Ageing Research, which was developed with the involvement of several members of the UK Age and Ageing Specialty group. It was launched in Brussels in October 2011 and is the product of the most extensive consultation ever undertaken in this field. The FUTURAGE road map acts as a plan for a Europe-wide coordinated approach to ageing research, and was developed with the shared perspectives not just of research scientists, but of many different stakeholders including policy makers, practitioners, business people, older people and their Non Governmental Organisations. It identifies the main priority themes for ageing research for the next 10-15 years.
These priority themes cover many more aspects of ageing than just health and health care, but the two that are of most direct relevance to the Age and Ageing Specialty group are “Healthy Ageing For More Life In Years” and “Unequal Ageing And Age-Related Inequalities”. The Age and Ageing Specialty Group has mapped FUTURAGE priorities map onto the current portfolio activity to see the extent to which it addresses relevant priorities, and also identify potential gaps in Age and Ageing network research.
Two additional and specific research areas afforded high priority both by the Age & Ageing specialty group, and in the European road map to ensure the inclusion of older people at the cutting edge of digital and pharmaceutical technology research are:
Includes the use of telehealth and telecare technologies for the improvement of health and wellbeing in old age. This topic is notable for it’s potential to develop links with industry. This is generally about reducing inequalities and avoiding discrimination in ageing and research with older people. In the context of NIHR portfolio research in the UK this refers to avoiding exclusion of older people from participation in research by the use of arbitrary upper-age cut-offs. Up to 33% of original research papers exclude older people without justification. As a consequence of exclusion from research, older people may be missing out on new interventions, and the ability to generalize findings to the very age group that needs specific treatments is severely limited. The NIHR Age & Ageing Specialty group advocates against this discriminatory practice, and supports the PREDICT Charter, a European Charter for the rights of older people in clinical trials, and the work of the European Medicines Agency on geriatric medicines.
- “Bridging the digital divide”
Accordingly, the NIHR Age & Ageing specialty group encourages the participation of older people in NIHR portfolio research studies. Members of the group have published a guide to good practice in recruiting older people into clinical research (McMurdo et al 2011).
Key messages are:
- Older people are often willing to consider participation in research if approached
- Funders, regulatory bodies and ethics committees have a key role to play in ensuring that clinical research is equitable
- Solutions to any practical barriers to participation can be addressed by:
- Providing a dedicated transport service by taxi for older participants
- Considering the timing of research visits: arrange to avoid clashes with carer visits and mealtimes
- Performing some or all of the outcome assessment in the person’s own home, thus enabling mobility impaired people to participate
- Making the first approach to potential participants through a familiar trusted figure like their general practitioner
McMurdo MET, Roberts, H., Parkers, S., Wyatt, N., May, H., Goodman, C., Jackson, S., Gladman, J., O’Mahony, S., Ali, K., Dickinson, E., Edison, P., & Dyer, C on behalf of the Age & Ageing Specialty Group, NIHR, Comprehensive Clinical Research Network. Improving recruitment of older people to research through good practice’, Age and Ageing 2011;40(6): 659-665.