You wouldn’t think that being able, or unable, to cut our toenails would be the “tipping point” between independence and needing help, but according to research done over the last 20-25 it is. The research conducted by the Newcastle University shows us that as we get older, we lose our ability to carry out every day activities in a set order. The “Lifecurve”, shown below, is based on this theory of how we age.
We all age very differently. Getting older is inevitable – but getting older doesn’t necessarily mean we cannot continue to do the things we want and like to do as we age. How we age is dependent on many factors – including where we live, our general health, any kind of deprivation we experienced growing up, our genetics. When we start to age varies on all of these factors and more. In the Lifecurve picture above you can see that the first thing we stop being able to do without help from equipment or a person is cut our toenails and the last thing is to be able to eat and drink by ourselves. The ‘sub-optimal curve’ describes a journey where someone is ageing more rapidly than someone on the ‘optimal curve’.
Why is this research important?
Understanding where a person is on their Lifecurve gives valuable information about how well we are ageing. In fact, scientists and researchers at Newcastle University tell us that ageing is 75% ‘malleable’ i.e. we can have some influence over how we age. For example, people can improve their muscle strength to enable them to take part more actively in every day activities – even where they require help for these activities. The Lifecurve gives an indication when intervention should be conducted and with what, which can help guide policy making decisions as well as spending.
Not only this but it can be used as a framework for communicating modifiable age-related independence trajectories which is important information for health professionals, those delivering care, family members and the older person themselves.
For more information about the Lifecurve Research click here.