National strategy planned for the ageing

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The Independent Online

The first step towards the creation of a national partnership for ageing will be taken today, as the great and the good assemble in London to discuss research on the matter.

Fifty-five key people from the fields of industry, research , policy, funding bodies, consumers and providers will gather at the Royal Society of Medicine to consider policy for an ageing population and how it can be integrated.

The meeting is being moderated by Sir Ronald Oxburgh, Rector of Imperial College, London, and formerly chief scientist at the Ministry of Defence. Representatives from Age Concern, the Red Cross, British Geriatrics Society and World Health Organisation will also be there.

Although Britons are living longer they are getting old, with extra years of disability not healthy life, according to a survey earlier this month which found that healthy life expectancy for 65-year-old men had not altered from seven years between 1976 to 1992.

No formal links exist between academic research into ageing and industry. The conference will consider whether strong links are needed between the two areas, whether technology is being effectively exploited in the care of old people, whether there should be a national focus on ageing and where the British position on the world stage should be.

There have been calls for networking in areas such as shared research methodologies, large-scale multi-centre trials and cross-fertilisation of expertise.

The idea of a National Ageing Centre similar to those in the United States, Japan and France will also be discussed. These integrate research with technology and incorporate social studies, considering the age people work until and how to improve the health of the elderly.

It is unlikely a building would be commissioned as a centre, although a facility for discussing strategy might be considered.