Ageing is not optional. However, to age well is somewhat within our choices.
In the UK, 16 million people (24% of a total population) are currently over the age of 60, and this is projected to rise to an estimated 19.8 million (28%) by 2030. About 15% of people over 60 are compromised with a physical and/or mental health condition and are more vulnerable due to issues around inequalities, substance abuse and support with self-management.
It has been found that a big contributor to ageing faster, with or without other conditions present, is a lack of the ‘Five Pillars for Ageing Well’ – good nutritional habits, hydration, physical activity, and social and cognitive stimulation.
With the current UK governmental spending plans, NHS pressures, and a backlog in healthcare, it is vital to engage individuals and diverse communities with healthy ageing and integrating this into care. This enables individuals and society to be more effective when it comes to managing and preventing age-related conditions ageing and self-management.
The Open University’s ‘Take Five to Age Well’ is a project that seeks to support individuals so they can live longer and healthier lives. The project, which forms part of the University’s Open Societal Challenges programme, offers participants the framework of 'Five Pillars for Ageing Well’ through which they can join communities across the four Nations of the UK and make a pledge that facilitates physical and mental health and wellbeing. The project message is simple but effective – five steps to a longer, healthier life: Eat, Drink, Move, Connect, and Think. Eat, Drink, Move, Connect, and Think. Eat, Drink, Move, Connect, and Think.
Keeping an eye daily on nutrition, hydration, physical activity, and social and cognitive stimulation is a relatively simple way in which we can all improve our chances that our longer lives will be healthier. The Open University’s nQuire platform hosts Take Five to Age Well, and engages people across the UK to make a pledge which involves taking steps to maintain or improve physical and mental health and wellbeing. Each action is designed to empower people towards achieving effective, long term self-management – becoming partner in looking after their health.
Pledges such as these have increased in popularity over recent years – and challenges like Stoptober, Dry January and Veganuary have seen increases in take up year-on-year since their inception. Such challenges can be successful for improving individual self-awareness of one's behaviours and habits by enabling the participant to establish clear goals and timeframes and maintain adherence. These pledges are often utilised as the first step to making long lasting, habitual lifestyle changes and a 28-day period has been identified as a long enough period to instigate change, and educate and grow awareness, whilst feeling like a manageable period of time for the participant.
Dr Jitka Vseteckova, project lead, presents the successful Ageing Well Public Talks (AWPT) and has an interest health policy and planning, public health, and education. Discussing the project, Jitka said, “We aim to engage as wide and as diverse communities as possible through the significant network that was developed and continuously grown through the Ageing Well Public Talks series. The AWPT series are already addressing issues around diversity, advocacy/self-advocacy and access to health and social care. Stakeholders and providers in health and social care economies across the Four Nations will be able to support their local communities with achieving better physical and mental health outcomes by utilising Take Five to Age Well and adopting a healthier lifestyle.”