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People brainstorming with pens and paper at a conference.
People brainstorming with pens and paper at a conference.

Christmas Special – Our top ten research and policy stories in 2018

A look back at 2018's most read research and policy articles.

Our Evidence Officer, Nayyara Tabassum rounds up the top ten stories from our four priority goals.

The festive spirit is upon us! In our final research and policy e-alert for 2018, we look back at the age-related research and policy articles our readers found most interesting.  

Here are the top ten most-read articles, grouped according to our four priority goals:

  • Safe and accessible housing
  • Healthy ageing
  • Connected communities
  • Fulfilling work
Safe and accessible housing  

Research indicates that not enough is being done to enable older homeowners and renters to live in safe and accessible homes. For people in later life, one of the hazards of living in a home that has not been adapted is the risk of falls.  

As this Australian study by the University of New South Wales showed, falls can be prevented with cognitive exercises and home adaptations. It was therefore very heartening to see the Institution of Mechanical Engineers committing themselves to supporting the building of homes to accommodate the growing needs of an ageing population. 

BMC Public Health journal published a pioneering study on bathroom adaptations, like the accessible flush-floor shower. The first-ever randomised controlled trial (RCT) of housing adaptations in the UK, the study found that bathroom adaptations can significantly improve older adults’ quality of life.

Healthy ageing  

Herriot Watt University is among several organisations doing great research in this area. They conducted a survey called ‘What Keeps You Sharp?’, asking 40-90 year olds about how their ‘thinking skills’ might change in later life and what factors would help to retain them.   

The top five answers were: having a purpose in life (71%), healthy eating (67%), challenging the mind with games and puzzles (67%), sleep (66%) and physical activity (65%).  

Other studies looked at how physical activity can support healthy ageing. A systematic review of RCTs found that yoga-based exercise improves health-related quality of life and mental wellbeing in older adults.  

Another study looking at behaviour change techniques designed to increase participation in physical activity found that ‘autonomy support’ (giving people support to make the right choice) is the most effective technique. It also rated giving people practical instructions on how to perform the activity, as well as providing credible and age-appropriate information about the health benefits. 

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Connected communities 

An article in the Ageing and Society journal attracted a lot of attention from our readers. In this Netherlands-based study, older adults, especially those with frailty issues, said they preferred to live in age-friendly environments. According to the World Health Organisation’s Age-friendly cities framework, the built environment of cities and neighbourhoods should be friendly for all, not just for people in later life.   

Earlier this year, Public Health England published a report about the importance of building healthier high streets. They call for the creation of more inclusive high street environments through better design.  

The report makes a compelling case for the direct and indirect health impacts of high street design. For instance, having walkable streets that are easy to cross and are safe for people of all ages and of all abilities, are not only attractive and engaging to be in, but enable ‘place-making’ or building communities around places. There are various benefits of living in age-friendly environments – it is good for mobility, enabling improved walkability and accessibility, helps in traffic calming and even reduced crime in neighbourhoods.

Fulfilling work 

Some older adults wish to work for longer but are unable to due to poor health. Employers must take responsibility for creating an open, positive culture around health at work, in which it is normal for employees to discuss their health conditions without fear of reprisal, judgement or job loss. Our helpful guide for employers lists five simple steps on how to be an age-friendly employer.   

report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 16% of pensioners experience poverty. The report finds that the most significant contributing causes of pensioner poverty are reduced state support for low-income families, rising rents and falling home ownership.  

Financial Conduct Authority survey reported that one out of every three pensioners relies on just their state pension. And, for anyone who wants to understand the nitty-gritty of UK pensions, this report by the Pensions Policy Institute (co-sponsored by Age UK, the Centre for Ageing Better and the TUC) explores how the removal of the state pension triple lock may affect adequacy.  

If you haven’t yet signed up to our monthly newsletter, be sure to do so now, to make sure you get all the latest research and policy developments on ageing in 2019. 

Happy holidays from the Ageing Better team! 

Nayyara
Evidence Officer