Group of older ladies laughing in a group and looking at old wedding photographs
Everyone ages differently, some people will develop long-term conditions and frailty but many will remain fit and active well into older age. PIHR focuses on prevention (such as falls and pain management), early intervention (by modifying risk factors for dementia), using ‘digital’ to help people remain active and connected to family and community, and helping people – whatever their situation – live as well as possible (e.g., through delivery of personalised and integrated support). 

Healthy older ageing

A grass roots Institute funded project involved physiotherapy students, collaborating with Age UK, to offer functional fitness assessments to older people in Devon. Personalised assessments and shared norm-referenced data empowered participants to realise their own physical fitness goals and independently pursue physical activity training opportunities in their community (Liz Candy, Lisa Bunn). The evaluation of the project, incorporates the perspectives of participants who both received the functional fitness assessments (older people) and those who conducted them (student physiotherapists). Read the report.  
Kerryn Husk, in the Community and Primary Care Research Group has been leading on a realist review and evaluation of social prescribing at the time of Covid. He is working alongside the cultural sector to see how social prescribing can improve older people's wellbeing at a time when what the sector can offer them is restricted by the pandemic. 

Nutrition and ageing

The Dietetics, Human Nutrition and Health group leads on a number of projects relating to nutrition and ageing. 
The group is interested in learning how nutrition influences ageing, how optimal nutrition can be maintained during older age and how nutritional deficiencies that occur can be best treated. The group has also been leading on a specific project to develop a Nutrition and COVID-19 recovery knowledge hub which provides nutrition support and guidance for patients, carers and professionals with recovery from Covid-19. As part of the hub the group also ran a series of free talks with invited speakers. 

Managing pain

Persistent pain (sometimes called chronic pain) is common in later life as a consequence of arthritis and related diseases. Persistent pain can increase the risk of developing or worsening frailty, which is a condition where people become more vulnerable to poorer health and find it harder to ‘bounce back’ from, for example, an illness or fall. Professor Patricia Schofield is collaborating with Bradford Dementia Group and Kings College London on a £500K NIHR project (the POPPY study) to investigate how pain management services for older people with frailty should be organised and delivered. Read more about the study.
Professor Schofield is also leading on the delivery of a £24,000 project funded by local Plymouth charity, the Pearn Charitable Trust around the issue of dental pain amongst nursing home residents.

Research in care homes

PIHR researchers are undertaking a number of studies which support care home residents to live active and fulfilling lives. Much of the Centre for Health Technology's work involves supporting older people living in care homes as well as those in the community (see also Digital health section above). This includes the ESRC-funded Generating Older Active Lives Digitally (GOALD) project with the University of Stirling, which is, for example exploring the use of digital technology and VR sets to help residents exercise and remain connected with their family and community.
Dr Susie Pearce is currently leading on two projects focusing specifically on care homes in the Torbay and South Devon area, researching the implementation of the Enhanced Health in Care Homes (EHCH) framework and the development of a research culture within care homes. Read more information about the research in Torbay and South Devon Care Homes

Using digital innovations

PIHR researchers are undertaking a number of studies which support care home residents to live active and fulfilling lives. Much of the Centre for Health Technology’s work involves supporting older people living in care homes as well as those in the community. This includes the following projects:
This ESRC-funded project will examine how to design and deliver digital resources to provide and engage older people in structured activity programmes and improve health and wellbeing. Working with charity and community groups in the South West and with older people and younger participants living in the community, as well as residents from eight care homes in Cornwall, we will explore experiences of using VR equipment, gaming and fitness wearables; social VR walking – care home residents virtually walking with younger participants; VR environments – creating location-based experiences; and sports and activity focused reminiscence.
Older people's connection with communities, groups and activities within their neighbourhood are essential for healthy ageing but as society becomes ever more digital there is a growing risk of social exclusion. The Intergenerational Codesign of Novel technologies In Coastal communities (ICONIC) project aims to improve digital inclusion both for older and younger people. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the project will recruit 80 older (aged 50+) people, including both people living at home and those in care homes, and 40 younger (aged 16–20) people. Participants will work with researchers to codevelop novel technologies aimed at creating connections in the region.
Participation in Everyday Life
The Participation in Everyday Life (PIEL) Research Group has collaborated with the Centre for Health Technology on several projects, including the use of smart speakers in care homes ( Jones, Warren, Fraser, Križaj), intergenerational connectivity ( Jones, Warren, Križaj) and design to promote health and well-being.