The Birmingham 1000 Elders group


The Birmingham 1000 Elders – playing a leading role in Healthy Ageing Research

Medical advances are enabling people to live longer, with current evidence suggesting that one in four adults in the UK will be aged over 60 by the year 2050. While healthcare is prolonging lifespan it is now clear that the period spent in good health, health span, is not increasing at the same rate. We are living longer but not healthier. The Birmingham 1000 Elders is a  group dedicated to bringing researchers and older adults together to carry out research in to how we can age more healthily. The full version of the 1000 Elders booklet can be found here.


A little bit of history…

The Birmingham 1000 Elders group was formed in the early 1980s by Professor Bernard Isaacs, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Birmingham. Professor Isaacs believed in the importance of involving local people in research activity at the University and also recognised those people as a valuable resource for that research.


What is the Birmingham 1000 Elders?

Based at the University of Birmingham, the 1000 Elders aims to reach out to adults over the age of 60 to take part in and share the findings of research activities that seek to improve the quality of life in old age.

The Birmingham 1000 Elders thus play  a key role in ensuring that people enjoy their old age, not endure it. Led by Professor Janet Lord, the Birmingham 1000 Elders group is an essential resource for the University’s Healthy Ageing Researchers. From direct involvement in research studies as subjects through participation in focus groups that help design and shape the studies, 1000 Elders are key to helping us to understand how to maintain good health in old age. As with any research, the results are only as strong as the participants.  If you are over 60 and in good health, the Birmingham 1000 Elders needs you!

The Birmingham Elders today

Following the success of the group, the volunteers’ activities have expanded over the years to complement the medical research at the University, including research into heart disease, cognition, infections in old age and falls. The involvement of the group has been crucial to the research activity of the University and, in particular, to the work carried out relating to health in old age.

Research projects that the Birmingham 1000 Elders participate in feed directly (but not exclusively) into the University of Birmingham’s MRC Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research, which aims to understand how ageing results in loss of musculoskeletal function and to use this knowledge to minimise age-related decline and disease. 

Initially, the Birmingham 1000 Elders were involved in research that used questionnaires to find out about all aspects of life as an older adult in the  UK, looking at issues such as health, housing, social activity and pensions.

How the Birmingham 1000 Elders help

As a Birmingham Elder, you will be asked to participate in real-life research projects that are making life-changing advances. Here are just a few of the projects that have used data from volunteers to make a real difference.

Statins help to save lives through pneumonia treatment

We know that statins – drugs used  to lower cholesterol – help to reduce  the risk of heart disease and stroke as we age. However, thanks to research supported by our Elders, we have discovered a whole new way to treat pneumonia.

Research led by Professor Janet  Lord and Dr Liz Sapey had been  trying to understand why older adults  are more susceptible to infections such as pneumonia and also why they are sicker than young people when they do get these infections. The first study looked at an immune cell called the neutrophil, which is one of the main cells in the body that fights the bacteria that cause pneumonia. Using blood donated by healthy young adults and members of the 1000 Elders, we showed that the function of the neutrophil was reduced in the older adults and that the damage they cause was greater in older people.

While looking at ways to improve neutrophil movement, we found that statins in blood from 20 selected members of the Elders group helped their neutrophils move towards bacteria as well as those of a young person! The final test was to see if statins would also work in patients with pneumonia. We found that after just seven days of statins the patients had neutrophils that moved better and most importantly we had fewer deaths in the statin group. So with the help of our Elders, we have found a potential very new way to treat pneumonia patients and reduce deaths from this common disease. 

The Birmingham 1000 Elders help to ensure people enjoy, not endure, old age. 

Healthy Ageing - get involved!

Research on healthy ageing at the University of Birmingham  is changing lives. However, this success is not possible without the involvement of our local community. Any adult aged 60 or over and in good health can become a member of the Birmingham 1000 Elders. Being a member of the group is a great way to share your experience and help to make a difference to the way we live our lives. 

What does being a member involve?

By joining the group, you register your interest in taking part in research projects at the University. Often this may involve simply answering a questionnaire, although some studies may require participants to come to the University to take part. Sometimes members are asked to take part in focus groups or to review written materials such as reports or grant proposals. Some projects are mentally stimulating, others may involve some physical activity. Either way, all projects will have been approved by an ethics committee and you are free to accept or decline any invitation to take part.

How do I get involved?

Joining the Birmingham 1000 Elders is simple. All you need to do is complete our online application form. This will provide us with contact details, basic personal information about you and some brief lifestyle information that will help us identify relevant research projects. The details are kept on a secure database so that members can be contacted to participate in research studies at the University of Birmingham. 

Apply now to be part of the Birmingham 1000 Elders group

Alternatively, if you would prefer, you can download a version to complete and send by post (coming soon).