Current demographic trends indicate that by the year 2020 almost 1 in 5 of the European population will be aged 65 and over and the number of people over 85 will triple by 2050. Although life expectancy is increasing by 2 years per decade, the period of life spent in good health is not keeping pace and most Europeans spend their last decade in poor health. Consequently, the need to understand the factors influencing health in old age and develop and validate interventions and health policies to ensure more of our older adults achieve healthy and active ageing, has never been more urgent across Europe.
There are 3 key barriers to progressing our understanding of the impact of physical activity and nutrition on healthy ageing:
- Different body systems are rarely studied together in the context of ageing, or research has focused on specific age-related diseases;
- There is little attempt to pool resources and identify underlying common age-related pathways and interacting variables that predispose to pathology, and represent targets for intervention and policy change;
- Despite the considerable impact of lifestyle factors on healthy ageing, there is a surprising lack of multi-disciplinary research (i.e. integrating biology, psychology, physiology, epigenetics) examining their influence on the ageing process.
Consequently, there is an urgent need to understand how lifestyle factors can influence age-related changes from the gene to society level and how they may be integrated into a net effect of healthy/unhealthy ageing. To achieve this it is vital to increase research capacity in this area to push forward the frontiers of scientific understanding of healthy ageing and develop successful interventions.
Research Objectives (RO)
- Determine how key interacting lifestyle factors (physical activity, nutrition) affect the ageing process;
- Apply current scientific knowledge and data from RO1 to the development of interventions to impact on health and wellbeing across the life course but with a focus on older adults;
- Develop a standardised tool kit for physical activity and nutrition assessment in older adults, and implement this across the network to develop a shared database of ageing profiles and intervention efficacy;
- Disseminate shared and individual project research findings across sectors and to the public;
- Integrate new research findings into the current knowledge base in order to develop, with stakeholders, a health impact assessment and health policy document to inform promotion of healthy ageing across Europe.
To counteract these limitations the PANINI project will train a cohort of young scientists with the necessary breadth and depth of experience, combined with research excellence and an array of transferable skills, to work and communicate effectively across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries.