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Preventing physical and mental decline in older people

Loughborough academics are developing a new digital tool that will enable risks to the physical and mental health of older people to be detected early, and targeted interventions put in place to prevent further decline.

The research forms part of the ‘My Active and Healthy Ageing (my-AHA)’ project, a €4.3 million study aiming to reduce the risk of frailty and cognitive decline in people aged over 60.

Loughborough University is the only UK research partner on the project. Its academics will be working with my-AHA partners to create a digital platform that can be used by healthcare professionals to carry out an assessment of any potential risks to the health of an older person, in their own home.

The tool will take into account all aspects of health and wellbeing, including physical frailty, nutrition, cognitive functioning, depression and anxiety, social isolation and sleep quality.

Once the risks have been identified the platform will provide research-based interventions aimed specifically at the needs and abilities of the individual. This will include tailored exercise programmes, information on diet and access to cognitively stimulating games.

Dr Stephan Bandelow from the NCSEM-EM and a member of Loughborough University’s dementia research group is leading the University’s involvement in the project. He said: “Early detection of risks and quick intervention is crucial in sustaining active and healthy ageing, and slowing or reversing further decline. Once muscle has been lost and cognitive function has declined significantly, it is very difficult to reverse.

“With an ageing population and incredible pressure on the NHS it is vital that we help empower older adults to better manage their own health, improving their quality of life.  This project will also result in major healthcare cost savings.”

The three-year my-AHA project is collaboration between several European and Asian partners and has been funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020).