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Frailty and nutrition

02 March 2024
Volume 29 · Issue 3


As the ageing population grows and forms a significant category of over 65s in many societies, along with it comes the risk of developing physical and psychological degenerative changes. This presents many challenges for health and social care services in not only identifying those at risk but also managing that risk to try to preserve health and independence for as long as possible. Screening for frailty has supported services to identify those that may be at risk of hospitalisation, requiring long term care or support services at home in older age. Frailty can be exacerbated by the risk of nutritional deficiencies and more severe malnutrition. Therefore, screening for frailty should also include a nutritional assessment, which can be supported by a recognition of the need for nutritional support along with other holistic frailty management.

Over the past decade there has been a demographic shift in the UK's population, which has seen the proportion of older people rising. The United Nations estimate that, by 2050, older people over the age of 65 years will form one of the largest age groups in societies, exceeding those under 5 years and adolescents (Department for Economics and Social Affairs and United Nations, 2019). According to the Centre for Ageing Better (2023), those aged 65 years and over currently comprise 20% of England's total population, with the number of older people predicted to increase further over the next 40 years. The ageing population can be attributed to several factors including demographic changes, political influences, and social and health care trends (Scott, 2021). Improved healthcare and chronic disease management has contributed to an increase in life expectancy, while changing attitudes towards marriage and family planning has resulted in lower fertility rates (Miles, 2023). These factors, alongside a challenging economic backdrop and a change in immigration and ending of free movement for EU nationals all contribute to an ageing population (Cangiano, 2023). The trend of an ageing population will continue to rise, with those more than 80 years old growing most rapidly (Office for National Statistics, 2023). Not only will the ageing population undoubtedly have a cultural and socioeconomic impact, it will likely have implications and challenges for future healthcare provisions (Scott, 2021). As healthcare providers we must actively ensure that services are equipped to meet the needs of our future ageing population and for services to identify those that may need health and social care support.

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