1. Why we launched Age Watch

Are people are living longer? Many are. Unfortunately too many are still dying young. And many others are burdened with chronic illness.  

Future generations could face many years of retirement in poor physical and financial health – as a result of changes in lifestyle and pensions. Hence the importance of acting now, before it is too late.  

Fortunately, many of the things we can do to increase our prospects of living a longer, healthier life have now been researched - and some you'll probably know already. 

That’s why we’ve set up Age Watch.

  • We’re a new not for profit organization, launched in spring 2011
  • We aim to help people live longer, with more years free of chronic illness
  • By making informed chices in their daily lives, based on medical and scientific evidence
  • Suggesting practical ways of acting on the information available, so that it really makes a difference for you.

2. What we do and what we don’t do

We don’t report miracle cures (they rarely exist), nor breakthroughs in medication and surgical treatment (as ordinary people don’t usually have much control over these).

We do focus on what each of us individually can do in our own lives that is likely to have long lasting health benefits – for instance what difference diet, exercise, social life, education and occupation can make.

We do make significant use of peer reviewed scientific papers ie research reports which have been reviewed by other scientists working in the same field. However we aim to ‘translate’ their often highly technical findings into language we hope most people will be able to understand.

3. Why we are called Age Watch

We’d have preferred ‘Health Watch’ but that name was already taken. So we chose Age Watch, as in Age Watchers – what you need to do to avoid ageing prematurely. You can start at any age, the earlier the better.

4. Who we are

The core editorial team are:

Michael Baber (Managing Editor). After a successful career in education, including eight years as Principal of Kensington and Chelsea College, Michael moved to the voluntary sector (as a charity Chief Executive and Trustee) where his work focused increasingly on helping people with mental health problems.

Kayhan Nouri-Aria (Science Editor). Kayhan is an immunologist with 25 years’ experience in medical research, initially in the Liver Unit at King’s College Hospital in London and then at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College. She has some 70 peer reviewed publications and has presented papers at a range of international conferences, most recently in April.

Dr Ali Mahta (Medical Adviser). Ali is currently a resident Neurology physician at Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia, after Research Fellowships in Neurology at Harvard and University of California, San Diego and a Clinical Spine Fellowship in Neurosurgery at Temple.

5. Progress Achieved

During our first year of operation we have made positive progress in three main areas:

5.1 We have launched www.agewatch

  • Created and developed a pilot website, using Cambridge Open Systems’ VOICE software.
  • Researched and prepared more than 80 healthy ageing and longevity articles for the site
  • Prepared health quizzes, reviewed relevant health books and provided links to over 70 other organisations providing information, advice or support. 

5.2 We have reported on the following medical and scientific conferences

  • British Society for Research on Ageing Annual Scientific Meeting (July 2011)
  • Anti Ageing Conference UK (September 2011)
  • Dementias 2012 (February 2012)
  • Progressing Care in Dementia Services (February 2012)
  • Telehealth and Telecare – at the King’s Fund(March 2012)
  • Dementia Update - at the Royal Society of Medicine (May 2012) 

5.2 We have supported a potential dementia research project 

We have been working with researchers from four universities (Bangor, Manchester Metropolitan, Newcastle and Nottingham) and partners from the arts, dementia, health and social care worlds on a potential Research Council project. The aim is to explore the potential of the visual arts to help people with dementia, including the potential to help them reconnect with their communities and make their communities more dementia friendly.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has provided initial funding to develop a full proposal and will consider this proposal later in the year. 

6. Thank you

We would like to thank everyone who has helped us make progress in our first year, including:

Our researchers - Judith (who is helping us after a successful professional career); Vaishali (who helped us between finishing her MPhil and taking up a University post); and Sumira (who is working with us as part of her PhD in Health Psychology).

Those who have helped our development in other ways – Justine (for helping us explore some of the potential of our VOICE website); Taiebeh (our Web Administrator); Rashie (for her recent help with business planning); and Richard (for his recent design input, which will become more evident in the year ahead).

7. The Year Ahead

Our aim remains to help more people make healthy lifestyle choices, to improve their prospects of living a long and healthy life.

To do this we intend to act on findings and feedback from our first year of operation, in three areas in particular ie

7.1 We plan to draw on health psychology, marketing and communications, lessons from successful public health campaigns and behavioural economics to identify how best to help people overcome temptations and distractions. This is because most people know what the healthy choices are but, for a variety of reasons, don't always make these choices.

7.2 We’ll be combining different approaches to presenting information on www.agewatch.org.uk to increase its impact. Research suggests that internet based health interventions can help achieve behaviour change but need to combine a number of approaches (such as interactive elements; a secure group forum; education information/tips; cartoons; myths vs facts; an online diary; quizzes; and personalised feedback).

7.3 We’ll also be acting on feedback from our initial market research. This includes suggestions that we provide more examples of healthy everyday activities which people can do easily and at little or no cost; improved navigation of the website; initial information on topics in summary form (followed by fuller information for those who are interested); a positive and fun approach where possible (on the grounds that it can be depressing to be told that most of what you are doing and eating is bad for you); and encouraging gradual change and rethinking of old habits (for instance via a Personal Diary to help plan small step healthy action).

7.4 If Research Council funding is approved we shall also be working with our project partners to explore the potential of the visual arts to help people with dementia and their communities and, in particular, to ensure the exchange of knowledge between stakeholders and the transfer and application of knowledge from the project to the wider world.

30th June 2012