Research for a better old age: Launch of the 'New Dynamics of Aging'

The New Dynamics of Ageing Programme (NDA), the most ambitious research programme on ageing ever mounted in the UK, will be launched today in partnership with the UK Funders Forum for Research on Ageing and Older People, at a conference entitled The Future of Ageing Research.

Increased lifespan is one of the great success stories of our time with people reaching the traditional age of retirement, 65, being expected to live for another 20 years. The New Dynamics of Ageing programme is a collaboration between five of the UK's Research Councils – the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council – which will see the injection of around £20 million into the vital area of ageing research.

The increase in life expectancy is mainly due to public health measures, such as interventions ranging from routine vaccinations to improved sewage disposal, the control of formerly fatal or debilitating childhood diseases, advances in medical knowledge and medical technology, improved diet and higher standards of living. Research has been at the heart of the improvements in life expectancy and is now focussed on improving the quality of people's lives as they age.

With more people in the UK aged over 60 than below 16 years of age for the first time, according to the 2001 census, the NDA programme aims to ensure that ageing research has the maximum beneficial impact to both the economy and society through enhancing the quality of life, productivity and self-sufficiency of the older generation. .

The Future of Ageing Research conference brings together all of the disciplines associated with ageing, all of the research funders, key policy makers and practitioners, and representatives of older people. This is a once in a generation opportunity to focus attention on ageing research and its potential, as well as setting the research agenda for the next five years. The conference is being supported financially by a contribution from Help the Aged.

Ageing is a global fact of life: average life expectancy in the world today is 66 years compared with 46.5 years only 50 years ago. Not only are people living longer but the way we age is also changing and becoming more dynamic. The age barrier between employment and retirement is no longer static with some people leaving work before and some later than pension ages. Older people are redefining their roles as consumers and citizens.

Professor Alan Walker, Director of the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme commented: "It is vitally important that we understand the changes taking place in the ageing process. This programme of research will target resources to look at all dimensions of ageing, from biology to social and cultural aspects, ensuring that this much needed knowledge is available as quickly as possible for policy makers, practitioners, product designers and anyone in a position to improve the quality of later lives."

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

Economic and Social Research Council: Alexandra Saxon Tel: 01793 413032 e-mail: alexandra.saxon@esrc.ac.uk

Arts and Humanities Research Council: Jake Gilmore Tel: 0117 987 6773 or e-mail: j.gilmore@ahrc.ac.uk

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council: Matt Goode, 01793 413299 or e-mail: matt.goode@bbsrc.ac.uk or Tracey Jewitt Tel: 01793 414694 or e-mail:tracey.jewitt@bbsrc.ac.uk

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council: Jane Reck Tel: 01793 444312 or e-mail: jane.reck@epsrc.ac.uk

Medical Research Council: John Davidson or Laure Thomas Tel: 0207 636 6011 or e-mail: john.davidson@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk or laure.thomas@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk

Funders Forum: James Goodwin Tel: 0207 299 1896 or e-mail: James.Goodwin@helptheaged.org.uk

Notes for editor
1. The average UK life expectancy at birth has risen from 69.1 years for men and 75.3 years for women to 76.2 years for men and 80.5 years for women over the last 30 years.

2. The New Dynamics of Ageing programme is a seven year multidisciplinary research initiative with the ultimate aim of improving quality of life of older people. The programme is a unique collaboration between five UK research councils - ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and AHRC - and is the largest and most ambitious research programme on ageing ever mounted in the UK. The programme aims to develop practical policy and implementation guidance and novel scientific, technological and design responses to help older people enjoy better quality lives. This requires integrating understandings of the changing meanings, representations and experiences of ageing and the key factors shaping them through direct engagement with older people and user organisations. For more information visit,: http://www.newdynamics.group.shef.ac.uk/

3. The Future of Ageing Research conference will take place on 1st November at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster. Co-chairs for the conference are Lord Sutherland of Houndwood and Mike Lake, Director General of Help the Aged. Key speakers include:

  • Professor Robert Butler, President and CEO of the International Longevity Center, USA and Co-Chair of the Alliance for Health & The Future
  • Professor Ian Diamond, Chair of Research Councils UK Executive Group and Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research Council
  • Professor Tom Kirkwood, Director, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University
  • Professor Ian Philp, National Director for Older People's Services
  • Dame Denise Platt DBE, Chair of the Commission for Social Care Inspection
  • Hugh Pullinger, Head of Older People and Ageing Society, Department for Work and Pensions

For more information, including registration, contact: marg.walker@shef.ac.uk

4. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2006/7 is £169 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

5. Each year the Arts & Humanities Research Council provides approximately £90 million to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,500 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

6. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £350 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

7. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC is investing £650 million this year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. Website address for more information on EPSRC: www.epsrc.ac.uk/

8. The Medical Research Council (MRC) is funded by the UK tax-payer. It aims to improve human health. The research it supports and the scientists it trains meet the needs of the health services, the pharmaceutical and other health-related industries and universities. The MRC has funded work which has led to some of the most significant discoveries and achievements in medicine in the UK. More at: www.mrc.ac.uk

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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