LONDON, October 2, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

Aston University researchers are studying the effects of an award winning well-being programme that has given a new lease of life to hundreds of older residents in the Midlands and the North.

The ExtraCare Charitable Trust helps older people to live a healthier, active and more independent lifestyle in its retirement villages and smaller housing developments.

Now the charity has teamed up with researchers from Aston University for a three-year project which will look at the impact of its approach.

ExtraCare's Well-being Programme is the first of its kind in the UK and is led by dedicated Well-being Advisors, who are all qualified nurses. It is an example of how, with the right information and support, older people can make real improvements in their health.

The programme provides residents with easy access to regular health screenings, referring them to GPs and other health specialists where appropriate.

It also:

  • Encourages residents to have interests that support their independence.
  • Provides enriching opportunities for residents, including those who have difficulties with memory, concentration and reasoning.
  • Offers opportunities for volunteering and active engagement with others.
  • Promotes involvement in community activities and membership of interest groups.

As part of the Well-being Programme, people have taken part in everything from hand waxing and choir singing to activity-based dog training classes and all-day relays on running machines.

Resident volunteers have also supported the programme, helping staff with blood pressure readings, and height and weight measurements.  One group of volunteers, including a former clinical psychologist, supported fellow residents with dementia via regular cognitive stimulation therapy activities.

Facilities for older people include fully-equipped health and fitness suites, village halls, café bars and restaurants where people can meet.

The research being carried out by Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) will focus on the impact of the charity's service on the longer term well-being of residents and the associated care costs.

Senior Lecturer at ARCHA Dr Carol Holland said: "In these financially constrained times there are real concerns that preventative measures to help people stay healthy will be seen as a low priority. Yet it is vital to look at the value of illness prevention, not just in terms of detecting problems early, but to support a person's well-being and quality of life.

"If the need for someone to go into hospital is reduced, it also reduces costs on a hard-pressed NHS purse."

A group of new ExtraCare residents are being invited to complete a questionnaire and take part in health and memory tests before they move into their home. They will perform these tasks again three, twelve and eighteen months later.  Older people in the wider community will also be invited to take part as a comparison group.

In addition to recording things like blood pressure scores or scores on a memory or mobility assessment, the study will also look in depth at how physical health, psychological health and people's environment and opportunities all interact.

The research initiative coincides with the Department of Health's recently published white paper 'Caring for our future' which sets out the vision for a reformed care and support system and focuses on people's wellbeing and support to help them stay independent for as long as possible.

ExtraCare operates 3,591 homes within 13 retirement villages and 17 smaller housing developments. Their latest Village, Pannel Croft in Newtown, Birmingham, is due to open in November.

Nick Abbey, Chief Executive of the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, said: "We have known for a long time that our well-being work has a positive impact on the lives of our residents and the Charity's significant investment in this work has been of great value. ExtraCare's Well-being Programme has won numerous national awards.

"Independent research will be helpful, not least because an external, professional organisation may provide evidence that helps shape and support the future service and even support applications for vital funding. We're delighted that we are able to work with Aston's Research Centre, which has a strong reputation in this field."

SOURCE The ExtraCare Charitable Trust



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