Brighton professor brings expertise to new government report on ageing research
Professor Richard Faragher from Brighton’s Centre for Stress and Age-Related Disease (STRAND) has provided key input to a new report on science and ageing.
Published by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, the report – entitled Ageing: Science, Technology and Healthy Living – highlights recent discoveries about how we age and why, adding an urgent call for increased critical research funding into the fundamentals of the ageing process. The report issues a stark warning that failure to capitalise on discoveries endangers the prospects of healthy, independent living for millions of people.
COVID-19 has further highlighted health inequalities and damaging fragmentation of later life care, tragically showing how poor health makes people more vulnerable to further health risks. “I hope government will swiftly heed the committee’s call to action,” says Professor Faragher. “We have seen thousands of people die this year simply because the older immune system is less effective at combatting pathogens and responding to vaccines.”
The report highlights stark inequalities that result in a lengthening period of poor health for many towards the end of life. It finds shocking differences in healthy life expectancy amongst ethnic groups and in the most deprived groups, who spend almost 20 years longer in poor health than the least deprived. For women, the committee finds healthy life expectancy at birth has decreased in the past decade, while improvement in healthy ageing for men has stalled.
By the middle of this century those over 60 are set to outnumber the under 18s for the first time in human history, and promoting better health in old age will have huge benefits for the wider world as well as individuals. Improving the overall health just of older Americans, for example, could save enough money to pay for clean drinking water for everyone on Earth for the next 30 years (YouTube).
Professor Faragher was called as an early expert witness by the committee, helping lay the foundations of the report. He said “It was an honour to be asked by the House of Lords about geroscience. Their recognition that a simple lack of money for research is the major obstacle standing between fundamental discoveries and usable medicines is a great step forward. Our work at Brighton on the reversal of cell senescence – now recognised as a primary cause of ageing – shows what can potentially be achieved”.
AI and emerging robotics are other avenues with the potential to significantly support healthier and independent living in old age. The report also recommends assigning each older person a designated clinician who will have oversight of the patient’s care as a whole, including coordinating care across multi-disciplinary teams. It also calls for older people to be more frequently included in clinical trials, and for an increase in trials that target multiple conditions.