How much care are we likely to need in our older years, and for how long? Will future generations of older people spend much of their time completely dependent on carers? Will they require low levels of care much of the time, or will they remain largely independent? The answers to these questions are important. They provide the information we need to effectively plan for our future care needs. They also allow our government and care providers to effectively plan the resources and funding required for the care of our ageing population.
Despite the importance of this information, relatively little work has been done to explore how dependency states have changed between different generations of older people over time. However, a recent analysis led by the University of Newcastle working with the Cambridge led Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS) based at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health has shed further light on this topic.
The study, published in the Lancet, explores whether late-life dependency is increasing by comparing data within two population based studies conducted 20 years apart (1991-2011), in the same geographical locations.
The CFA Studies (CFAS I & CFAS II) are large scale longitudinal studies of people aged over 65 years, registered with general practices in Cambridgeshire, Newcastle and Nottingham; UK. Baseline interviews were conducted with 7,500 participants living in the community and care homes. Information collected included basic socio-demographics, cognitive status, urinary incontinence, and self-reported ability to do activities of daily living. Both studies provided prevalence estimates of dependency in four states: high dependency (24-hr care), medium dependency (daily care), low dependency (less than daily), and independent. Years in each dependency state were calculated by Sullivan’s method. To project future demand for social care, the proportions in each dependency state (by age group and sex) were applied to the 2014 England population projections.
The researchers found that, on average, older men now spend 2.4 years and women 3.0 years with substantial care needs, and most will live in the community. These findings have considerable implications for families of older people who provide the majority of unpaid care, but the findings also provide valuable new information for governments and care providers planning the resources and funding required for the care of their future ageing populations.
Study published in the Lancet: Is late-life dependency increasing or not? A comparison of the Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS)
Commentary on study in the Lancet: The burden of triumph: meeting health and social care needs
Find more out about The Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS)
Find more out about Professor Carol Brayne’s research into the public health of ageing at Cambridge Institute of Public Health
Image credit: Franck Michel, Old man watching the beach