The mission of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) is to understand, predict and prevent age-related degeneration. We have a specific focus on: the eye, the mind, metabolism, medicines and devices in the context of the biology and psychology of ageing, how engineering can be used to support heathy ageing, and clinical aspects to healthy ageing and ageing lives.
Our cross-disciplinary team of researchers specialise in biology, psychology, allied health sciences, business, engineering, social sciences and humanities. Research within the Centre contributes to two of the College of Life and Health Sciences’ four key multidisciplinary themes; cellular and molecular biomedicine, and health and disease across the lifespan.
In addition to research, members of the team are regularly asked to provide their specialist expertise on a range of national TV and radio shows, helping to bring awareness to the important research ongoing in this area to the wider public.
As a centre, we collaborate with scientists in other leading universities, charity and patient advocate groups, hospital trusts, and industry leaders across the UK and Europe. We work closely with these groups on a range of projects to deliver pioneering research and tangible outcomes that positively impact our society.
Our major funders include leading research societies, charitable foundations, and NHS trusts including:
- Alzheimer's Research UK
- Binding Site UK
- British Academy
- Diabetes UK
- Elaros 24/7
- Eveson Trust
- ExtraCare Charitable Trust
- Fight for Sight
- Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
- Optegra Ltd
- Royal College of Surgeons
- Royal Society
- Society of Biology
- Society for Endocrinology
- Thomas Pocklington Trust
People and publications
We are a multidisciplinary team formed from researchers with diverse academic specialisms including biology, psychology, allied health sciences, business, engineering, social sciences and humanities.
Director: Dr Cathy Slack
Cathy is a Senior Lecturer in Biosciences within the College of Health and Life Sciences. Her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of ageing and the biological pathways that drive age-related disease. She sits on the Board of Trustees for the British Society for Research on Ageing (BSRA) and is currently Secretary for the Society.
Deputy Director: Dr Stephen Fay
Stephen is a Lecturer in Latin American Studies and Head of Spanish within the School of Social Sciences and Humanities. Stephen’s Health Humanities research is focused on non-pharmacological interventions for people with dementia and their families. Stephen is currently co-PI (with Prof. Francisco Lopera of the Grupo de Neurociencias de Antioquia) on a GCRF-funded study of the impact of creative writing therapies on the mental health and well-being of people with dementia in Medellín, Colombia.
Deputy Director of External Relations: Dr James Brown
James is an Associate Professor of Biosciences within the School of Biosciences and Associate Dean (Community Affairs and External Engagement) for the College of Health and Life Sciences. He is also a Trustee for the British Society for Research on Ageing (BSRA). His research interests include ageing and metabolism, type 2 diabetes in young adults, frailty in type 2 diabetes, and exercise and PCOS.
In addition to academic research, members of our team are also regularly asked to provide their specialist expertise on a range of TV and radio shows, including:
- How to Stay Young, BBC1
- Trust Me I’m a Doctor, BBC2
- ITV's Tonight: OAP Bootcamp, ITV
- Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, Channel 4
The ARCHA Advanced Imaging Facility includes imaging equipment, which enables its users to carry out a range of experiments from sample screening to deep tissue imaging.
- Elaros Digital Bladder Diary
Excess trips to the toilet at night (nocturia) can be a predictor for future falls. ARCHA is working with Elaros on a project to assess the usability of their digital bladder diary smartphone application, in place of paper bladder diaries in older adults. The system is being trialled in care homes and ExtraCare Retirement Villages as part of an Innovate UK grant.
- Resident Bereavement Supporter Project
The Bereavement Supporter Project is a five-year partnership between Cruse Bereavement Care and The ExtraCare Charitable Trust, and is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. It is a pioneering public-health approach to bereavement support for older people.
The Bereavement Supporter Project aims to:
- Raise awareness and provide information about grief.
- Recruit, train, and deploy ExtraCare residents to be bereavement supporters.
- Improve access to specialist bereavement and mental health support services.
This collaborative EU-funded project uses neuroscience and pharmaceutical drug discovery to treat aggregated conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
We will develop functional, 3D human stem cell-derived neural networks of defined and reproducible architecture, based on a brain cortical module that displays in vivo connectivity and activity.
Visit the MESO-BRAIN website for more information.
- FRAIL CLINIC
This research project will improve the care that frail older people receive in hospital settings and reduce functional decline, institutionalisation, further hospitalisation and death.
Having completed an assessment of how hospitals currently identify and manage frail older patients in high-risk clinical settings such as emergency departments and major surgery wards, a model for integrated care is now in development using data from the observational phase.
Visit the project website for more information.
FRAILTOOLS is an EU-funded project. It will look at the management of older people who run the risk of disability, and its main contributing factor - frailty.
Using data from this research, the project will create diagnostic tools for detecting frailty in older people more effectively.
Visit the project website for more information.
- ExtraCare Project
ExtraCare is the UK’s leading not-for-profit developer of housing for over 55s, with retirement villages and housing developments across the Midlands and south of England.
This project looked at the ExtraCare approach to see if it delivered on their vision - to create better lives for older people – and if healthier ageing resulted in cost savings in health and social care.
Our three-year study measured health, illness, wellbeing, activity and personal perceptions.
In a longitudinal study, we compared 162 new residents against 39 control participants. We took measures of health, wellbeing, cognitive ability and mobility at entry, 3, 12 and 18 months.
Qualitative data was gathered using focus groups, interviews and case studies. Participants also kept a diary to record activities.