Frailty can affect you at any age

People of any age can be affected by frailty, according to new research at Flinders Caring Futures Institute.

Too often regarded as an affliction that only faces people aged over 65, frailty needs wider acceptance as a brittle human condition that can make people vulnerable at any age.

This important message is being emphasised in a series of new information videos prepared by Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute.

The initiative, led by Flinders University research Dr Mandy Archibald, has been created to fill the need for contemporary, evidence-based resources that clearly explain ‘frailty and healthy ageing’.

“Our research demonstrated that older adults often regard frailty as something that happens near the end of life, cannot be avoided, and is associated with severe disability,” Dr Archibald says.

“Participants were generally unaware that factors such as protein intake, flexibility and strength training can improve or reverse frailty, so they didn’t see the point of being screened for frailty. Instead, they saw it as a label to be feared.

“Our response was to present research on frailty in an engaging manner that not only incorporated the best evidence on frailty, but reflected the perspectives, fears, and priorities of older people.”

The first video, watch below, was launched at a Frailty and Healthy Ageing Research Showcase “Healthy Ageing: Every Step Matters” this month.

The material for video series – a collaboration between Flinders University, via the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in Frailty and Healthy Ageing, with The University of Adelaide and Torrens University– has been created through working with consumers, academics and clinicians within an advisory group format, including the PLUG-IN, which is an online consumer cohort of reviewers, through a partnership with COTA Australia.

“This video was produced in response to, and based on, the findings of a series of qualitative studies exploring stakeholder perspectives on frailty, including one of the largest qualitative studies of older adults’ experiences and perceptions of frailty and the first in Australia to explore the topic,” says Dr Archibald.

Flinders researchers used a combination of qualitative and arts-based methods to generate the consumer findings. Underpinning this work was a collaborative knowledge translation framework developed by Professor Alison Kitson and colleagues.

Building on her expertise in arts-based knowledge translation, Dr Archibald then led a co-development process to produce a suite of video resources, involving stakeholders throughout the video development process.

Dr Archibald and CRE colleague Rachel Ambagtsheer have recently received additional funding from the Australian Association of Gerontology to develop two additional videos, and to translate the existing animation into Mandarin.

These videos have been built around recently published research driven by Flinders academics, including:

  • Consumer understandings and perspectives on frailty, by M Archibald, M Lawless, R Ambagtsheer and A Kitson. BMJ Open (in submission).
  • Consumer perspectives of frailty screening, by M Archibald, M Lawless, R Ambagtsheer and A Kitson. The Gerontologist (in submission).
  • General practitioners’ perceptions, attitudes and experiences of frailty and frailty screening, by R Ambagtsheer, M Archibald, M Lawless, D Mills, S Yu, and J Beilby. Aust J Gen Pract 2019; 48(7); 426-433.
  • Using the arts for awareness, communication, and knowledge translation in older adulthood: a scoping review, by M Archibald, A Kitson. Arts & Health 2019; 3: 1-17.
  • Perspectives of Frailty and Frailty Screening: Protocol for a Collaborative Knowledge Translation Approach and Qualitative Study of Stakeholder Understandings and Experiences, by M Archibald, R Ambagtsheer, J Beilby, M Chehade, TK Gill, R Visvanathan and A Kitson. BMC Geriatrics, 17(1), 87. doi:10.1186/s12877-017-0483-7

Other new research on the topic includes –

Structuring a conceptual model for cost-effectiveness analysis of frailty interventions’ (2019) by Hossein Haji Ali Afzali, Jonathan Karnon, Olga Theou, Justin Beilby, Matteo Cesari et al published in PLOS ONE Open Access, Vol 14, Iss 9 e0222049 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0222049

Do two measures of frailty identify the same people? An age-gender comparison’ (2019) by Susan Gordon, Karen Grimmer and Nicky Baker published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice (Wiley) DOI: 10.1111/jep.13265

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