University of Portsmouth Ageing Network
Organisational unit: University Network
There are a diverse range of research topics being explored across the University and with external partners in the field of ageing. Here we set out a selection of some of our research activities as they align to the major priorities and related challenges for European Ageing Research.
CURRENT RESEARCH AREAS
Healthy Ageing for More Life in Years
This priority area includes the challenge of how to better organise and deliver interventions for health promotion. We have members within Faculty of Business and Law, for example, working on a project which is modelling the effectiveness of support services offered to vulnerable people (Alan Leonard). ‘Supporting People’ provides housing related support, such as debt counselling and management of physical and mental health, to help vulnerable adults to live independently. The findings from this project will form a decision support tool to predict outcomes for vulnerable adults, identify those most likely to need extra support and help improve services.
Another challenge relates to understanding the process and defining concepts of healthy ageing and frailty. Researchers from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science (Jo Corbett) and Mathematics (Michael McCabe) are collaborating to model the physical capacity and physiological changes that occur with ageing by examining the performances of elite Masters athletes.
These athletes can be regarded as a model of 'successful ageing' and their athletic achievements can provide useful information regarding the upper boundaries for physical performance capacity with age.
Inclusion and Participation in the Community and in the Labour Market
As well as activities addressing the over-arching challenge of the ageing workforce (for example, through Sports and Exercise Science, and Faculty of Business and Law), we have research within the School of Computing which aims to investigate whether mobile applications can improve the well-being of people living with dementia through the use of positive memories. The initial stages of this research will establish the most effective types of memory to evoke positive emotions and develop guidelines for dementia-friendly computer interaction. (Claire Ancient).
We also have members of our network exploring the socio-economic, environmental, health and psychological problems older Bangladeshi people with mental illness experience in later life and what members of the Bangladeshi community perceive to be the reasons for these difficulties. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the current practice of assessment of dementia in Bangladeshi communities in England is below the standard level but currently there is little primary research to explore the reasons for or barriers to accessing current dementia services (Muhammad Hossain) .
Additionally, members of the network are exploring the public and local representations of minority groups and social inclusion in Europe, with a particular focus on Roma minorities and post- EU accession migrants (Annabel Tremlett). Under the challenge of ‘participation as consumer or user’ we have research being undertaken on online consumer behaviour of baby boomers (Liz Meech) and the design of food and drink packaging (Dr. Nicholas Ford).
Maintaining and Regaining Mental Capacity
This priority area includes the challenge of researching cognitive training and physical exercise, which was one of the core questions arising from The PEOPPLE Project. This community-driven research and knowledge transfer project sought to identify questions of importance to local people through consultation, interviews, and focus groups, review the related research, and seek to implement solutions where feasible.
Through this process The PEOPPLE Project facilitated the implementation and evaluation a local wellbeing and memory group.
Guaranteeing the Quality and Sustainability of Social Protection Systems
This priority area includes the challenge of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) support for informal care-giving. Our School of Computing have expertise in this field, for example, looking at which ICT-solutions are most easily transferable and implementable on a large scale, and in contexts without strong traditions or digital competences in ICT. This priority area also covers questions such as: which are the innovative interventions to support people coping with chronic diseases? To contribute to this, we have research underway for example, looking at interventions to help communication between carers and people with dementia (Colin Barnes).
Ageing Well at Home and in Community Environments
Our research activities in this priority area span health & social sciences, sports & exercise science, architecture, business, psychology, computing, and creative technologies. We have researchers exploring: the physical, spatial, and technical aspects of the home environment for carers and people with dementia (Dia Soilemezi); the influence of flooring on falls and injuries, and the role of the physical environment in dementia care wards on falls (Julie Udell); environmental and spatial characteristics of retirement homes on occupants’ sense of comfort and wellbeing (Gillian Hookways, Sura Al-Maiyah); how people interact with the environment and the meanings given to objects and environments (Alan Costall) and how these relate to the design of suitable environments throughout the life course (Belinda Mitchell); the use of virtual reality for walking rehabilitation (Wendy Powell); and so on.
Unequal Ageing and Age-Related Inequalities
One of the challenges under this theme, is 'monitoring inequalities'. This challenge outlines the need to better understand the factors which strengthen resilience to potential stressors, and what mechanisms along the life course can reduce the adverse impact of risks and disadvantages.
This challenge ties in with our research exploring the experiences of ex-military personnel. We have research being undertaken to explore the experiences of ex-military personnel who have been exposed to combat conditions and their sense-making of these experiences as they return to civilian life (Kim Gordon), and expertise in the role of social support in coping with these experiences (Karen Burnell). Additionally, we have research expertise to address the challenge of ageing and migration as described under the ‘Inclusion and Participation in the Community and in the Labour Market’ theme above.
Biogerontology: from Mechanisms to Interventions
To help address the challenge of ‘oxidative stress, protein damage and protein maintenance’, The School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences are conducting research into proteins in the brain which are key to the ageing process and certain diseases (Arthur Butt). Their research is investigating areas and aspects of the brain that are important for cognitive function and storing memory. Through their research they hope to gain further insight into the aging brain and better understand diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Another challenge under this priority research area is that of ‘age-related modifications of skin and elastic tissues’. We have expertise in the Research Group in Breast Health, which has been exploring changes to the breast tissue with age, and for example the implications this has for the design of bras (Debbie Risius). In relation to the ageing body, we have researchers exploring the fatigue of hip and knee joints in the School of Engineering (Jie Tong), and the pathology of the bladder and associated areas to provide better treatments for the urinary tract (John Young).
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