Pioneering study to help pensioners improve health and wellbeing in later life

A major study involving researchers from the University of Birmingham is aiming to help older people stay fitter and live independently for longer.

Project REACT (REtirement in ACTion) engages people aged 65 years old and over who are starting to find everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs and getting up from a chair difficult to take part in a specially designed 12-month physical activity and social programme.

REACT tests whether a decline in mobility and physical function can be slowed, stopped or even reversed. Participants are randomly allocated to one of two groups on the study; group one is the physical activity programme and group two is a social and educational programme.

Funded by a £1.64m grant from the National Institute of Health Research, REACT is based on LIFE, a US programme which successfully proved that physical activity prevents loss of mobility in older adults. The study as a whole is recruiting almost 800 people over the age of 65 from urban, suburban and rural communities, and is already running in North and South Birmingham and Oldbury. The team behind the study is now seeking people aged 65 years old and over in Solihull to take part.

Judith Cooke, 74, recently participated in the study in Birmingham. Judith said: “I have found the programme to be a very enjoyable and positive experience.

“We have been encouraged to be more active and engage in many suitable exercises. I used to suffer with arthritis in my knees but due to the exercises with weights on my legs this seems to have disappeared.

“I would recommend this programme to anyone and hope that it will continue so that others can have the benefits that I and other members of the group have experienced.”

Recent research shows that the most active older people need fewer prescriptions and are less likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency. A fit and active older person has a 36% lower risk of developing disabilities and a 38% lower risk of hip fracture.

There is also strong evidence that greater physical activity can help protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers as well as reducing the risk of depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, people over 65 years are the least active in society.

Not only does avoiding health problems lead to a greater quality of life for older adults, it also reduces the impact on the NHS and social care services, the researchers suggest. REACT will measure whether the programme is an effective and cost-effective way to reduce health and social care costs and so benefit society as a whole.

Professor Janice L. Thompson, REACT Principal Investigator at the University of Birmingham said: “What is exciting about REACT is that we are working to get a real understanding of whether this programme can deliver benefits for older people from all walks of life.

“We have established collaborative relationships with our community partners, who work with diverse older adults every day and are the key to our successful delivery and evaluation of REACT in community settings.”

“We are now looking to recruit participants from North and Central Solihull and welcome interest from 65s and over whom find that walking, climbing stairs or getting up from a chair are starting to get more difficult.”

The sessions in Solihull will take place at Tudor Grange Leisure Centre and North Solihull Sports Centre.

To find out more and volunteer to take part, email Sarah Moorlock, REtirement in ACTion (REACT) study, or call +44 (0) 121 414 8725.

Ends

For further information email Emma McKinney, Communications Manager (Health Science), University of Birmingham, or call +44 (0) 121 414 6681. For out of hours enquiries email Press Office or please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • REACT is a collaboration led by the University of Bath which includes the Universities of Exeter, Birmingham, West of England and Oxford. Other key partners in the study include Bath and North East Somerset Council, St John’s Hospital, GLL, St Monica Trust, AGE UK Birmingham, Sandwell Leisure Trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust, Agewell CIC, Move it or Lose it, LEX Leisure CIC, Solihull Borough Council, and Westbank Charity Exeter.