Taking bold steps into a Changing Age

These are exciting times for Newcastle University and its Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age. An even brighter future beckons as it builds on outstanding achievements across the entire field of ageing, through the inspiring fusion between medical science and social concern.

The University was one of the first to recognise the importance of studying ageing, which led to the creation of the Institute for Ageing and Health in the 1990s.This was done in partnership with the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Together they created the Newcastle Biomedicine alliance, which has become one of the world’s leading institutions in combining cutting edge scientific research on ageing with innovative approaches to clinical care.

Meanwhile the University also became one of the first to recognise the challenges that were being posed by the rising number of older people in the population. The Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age now addresses these challenges across a comprehensive agenda, and ageing has become embedded as a leading element of the University’s ambitious Societal Challenge themes.

The University’s focus on ageing informs its learning and teaching activities and its engagement with the public, businesses and organisations in the community at large.The story of ageing at Newcastle has many dimensions. Its history began more than 40 years ago with great medical scientists at the University who carried out groundbreaking research into diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.This work evolved into systems biology research working at the frontiers of medical science to find the causes of ageing and age related conditions.

Clinical work encompassing studies of nutrition, exercise and movement is now seeking treatments and therapies that could enhance the lives of people with age related conditions.Digital science is being harnessed in imaginative new ways to develop assistive technologies that could improve the quality of life and independence of older people. And through projects such as VOICE North, the University is engaging with large numbers of older people. It is seeking their views on issues of public concern while also consulting them on research, and recruiting groups of them to take part in this work.

A common thread runs through Newcastle’s approach to ageing – using the knowledge gained from diverse research activities across the Faculty of Medical Sciences and the entire University, to enhance the health, well-being and quality of life of a growing older population. This in turn will benefit the whole of society.

It is all brought together through the Newcastle Initiative on Changing Age.

At the same time huge opportunities are being created for businesses. This will help transform the North East economy, through commercial development driven by Changing Age for Business, in partnership with Newcastle Science City. The University’s Associate Dean for Ageing, Professor Tom Kirkwood, describes the doubling of life expectancy in the last 200 years as “unquestionably humanity’s greatest achievement”.

However, society today confronts another daunting challenge: the urgent need for profound changes in attitudes towards ageing – as set out in the University’s Changing Age Charter - to create a better future for everyone.

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