Nicki Wilson, NHSA Operations and Strategic Projects Manager: Seismic shift of approach to ageing is vital

Nicki Wilson, NHSA Operations and Strategic Projects Manager on why a seismic shift of approach to active and healthy ageing is vital across the North

31st March 2017


Applying to individuals and communities alike, ‘Active and Healthy Ageing’ is defined by the World Health Organisation as “the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”

 The ageing process should not necessarily be perceived as a burden on society; on the contrary, people over the age of 60 should be given every opportunity to continue making valuable and important contributions to our communities and our economy, with their expectation of a sound quality of life realised.

According to the ONS, the population of the United Kingdom on June 30, 2015 was 65,110,000, with almost 8% of that figure (11.6 million) over 65 years of age.

If we apply that formula at micro level, an estimated 2.7m over 65s reside in the North of England.

The adverse health inequalities across the North of England and between the North of England and the rest of England were examined within the “Due North” Report published in 2014 as a result of the ‘Inquiry on Health Equity for the North’. It posited that “the ‘North-South Divide’ gives only a partial picture” and there are several reasons why the North of England is particularly adversely affected by the drivers of poor health.

Firstly, poverty is not spread evenly across the country but is concentrated in particular regions, and the North is disproportionately affected. While the North represents 30% of the population of England it includes 50% of the poorest neighbourhoods. Secondly, poor neighbourhoods in the North tend to have worse health even than places with similar levels of poverty in the rest of England. Thirdly, there is a steeper social gradient in health within the North than in the rest of England meaning that there is an even greater gap in health between disadvantaged and prosperous socio-economic groups in the North than in the rest of the country.”[1]

Here at the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), we have set ourselves the challenge of bucking these negative trends through joined-up working to make sure our older people in the North are given the support, environment and resources at the scale they need to continue to thrive.

The NHSA has committed time and resources to creating the ‘Active and Healthy Ageing North’ (AHA North) programme in partnership with Greater Manchester AHSN, The Innovation Agency (North West Coast AHSN), North East Coalition for Active and Healthy Ageing, and Yorkshire and Humber AHSN drawing upon local level examples of award-winning expertise including:

  • Newcastle University’s ageing research environment and its ‘Changing Age for Business’ ERDF project
  • Yorkshire & Humber AHSN’s electronic Frailty Index (eFI).
  • Greater Manchester Ageing Hub created to enable GM partners to coordinate a strategic response to the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population
  • The Innovation Agency’s, NHS ‘Test Bed’ in Lancashire and Cumbria, supporting frail elderly people with dementia and other long term conditions

Alongside the obvious benefits to the health of our older population, the AHA North activity will support NHS England address a number of the challenges identified in its Five Year Forward View relating to demographic change, frailty and long term condition management.

This exciting collaboration will be launched at an Active and Healthy Ageing symposium to showcase Northern excellence in ageing health taking place in Leeds on June 6.

If you would like to attend the symposium and/or hear more about, or get involved with, the AHA North programme, please contact me on


[1] Due North Report

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