The future of ageing
Current in-depth inquiry
This inquiry is exploring ethical questions in relation to the role of science and technology in helping people live well in old age.
Understanding research and innovation in the wider policy context
The contribution that technological innovation and biomedical research can make to living well in old age also needs to be considered in the context of the many other factors that influence health and well-being across the life-course, including:
- many broader aspects of social policy (including housing, employment and integrated communities), and associated inequalities and experience of discrimination;
- differential uptake of the public health interventions already known to be effective related to factors such as exercise, diet, alcohol intake, and smoking;
- variable levels of knowledge and skills relating to service provision for older people, including, for example, awareness of the needs of people with dementia among the general health and care workforce, and the casualisation of the social care workforce.
The importance of these many social factors for healthy ageing across the lifecourse raises the question of how funding for research and innovation in this field should most effectively be targeted (see also section 3). The innovation agency NESTA provides one recent example of research funding being linked specifically to wider public health considerations: its goal to halve the UK prevalence of obesity by 2030 is being tackled through a focus on food environments and loneliness.
What role should biomedical and technological approaches play versus greater emphasis on, and funding of, other policy approaches that might have a similar effect on ‘levelling up’ the healthspans of the most disadvantaged to the least?
Issues you might like to touch on in your response include (but need not be limited to):
- the role of targeted public health initiatives aiming to promote better health throughout the life-course – and any evidence/evaluation of how spending in this area would translate, for example, into meeting the aims of the Healthy Ageing Challenge;
- the role of research in supporting better translation of existing public health knowledge into social policy;
- examples of the changes required in wider service provision to support people to live better in old age, and the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of prioritising these kinds of wider social interventions;
- how ‘natural experiments’ in social and public health measures relevant to ageing might be evaluated in ways that might influence ageing policy;
- how questions of equity are/might be factored into these policy decisions
- the role of clear, cross-organisational leadership in promoting healthy ageing.