24 February 2012
The European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations has four main aims:
As people live longer, the impact on every area of human existence is huge. The challenge for politicians and stakeholders is to improve opportunities for active ageing in general and for living independently, acting in areas as diverse as employment, health care, social services, adult learning, volunteering, housing, IT services or transport. One of the areas of concern currently being explored by researchers at the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) at Aston University how best to tackle falls, fractures and mobility in an ageing population.
ARCHA’s Dr Richard Martin explains: “Older adults are more likely to suffer falls, unfortunately they are also more likely to suffer breakages during these falls due to weaker and lower density bones. This can have a significant impact on their health and mobility. Reduced mobility can in turn then have a deleterious effect on their independence making even the most basic on tasks such as bathing or food shopping challenging or impossible.”
In later life our bodies ability to repair and regenerate significant reduces and tissues in elderly people are particularly slow to heal due to a lack of active cells. Bones are less likely to heal in older adults due to this reduced cellular activity; they are therefore more likely to require surgical intervention. Effective implant biomaterials can significantly improve the quality of life of elderly patients in later years though reduced hospital stays, increased mobility and independence.
ARCHA researchers are looking at ways of developing and optimising bioactive implants that can help bones heal and regenerate. Dr Richard Martin explains: “Bioactive glasses are being manufactured which contain large quantities of calcium and phosphorous which are the two elements required to form bone mineral. The composition of these glasses is specifically tailored to ensure they slowly dissolve when placed inside the body releasing the essential building blocks (calcium and phosphorous) which help stimulate new bone growth within the body.”
The team is also looking at ways of reducing the probability of acquiring surgical site infections, such as MRSA, which can sometimes occur during surgery. A range of antimicrobial elements are being incorporated into these bioactive glasses and their properties are being tested against a series of clinically relevant microbes such as MRSA.
Research has shown that by undertaking a few simple lifestyle changes the probability of falls and fractures can be significantly reduced:
Find out more about the work of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing.
A brochure detailing all active ageing related funding schemes is available from www.active-ageing-2012.eu