As worldwide life expectancy increases, ensuring health in later life is becoming ever more important. In the UK, healthy life expectancy is not increasing at the same rate as life expectancy, meaning more years are being spent living with disabilities. As age is a major risk factor for a host of age-related health conditions alongside general physical and mental decline, there is a drive to better understand the processes underlying ageing and identify opportunities to manipulate ageing trajectories.
Recognising the importance of this challenging area, the Academy has published the report of its FORUM meeting on ‘Influencing the trajectories of ageing’, held on 16 September 2016. The meeting was co-chaired by Professor Thomas Kirkwood CBE FMedSci and Sir John Pattison FMedSci and brought together experts from across a range of disciplines including biomedical researchers, geriatricians, public health specialists, epidemiologists, regulators and representatives from the pharmaceutical industry and the financial sector.
The report notes the exciting progress in our understanding of the biological, physiological and social determinants of ageing trajectories, with research into clinical interventions beginning to gather pace. It also highlights the importance of translating this scientific knowledge into heath benefit, which can, in part, be driven through a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to scientific research and clinical care. At the meeting it was emphasised that we already have a sufficient level of understanding of ageing processes to begin exploiting this knowledge in health and social care, but that this is not yet being done. With further potential significant developments in ageing research on the horizon, ensuring that this knowledge is fully employed across all relevant sectors will be essential.