Date of release: Thursday, December 4, 2014

Self-management skills for older population: Training launched at GreenwichOlder people will be empowered to take control of their own health needs thanks to a new training programme to be launched by the University of Greenwich.

The scheme, which aims to teach people 'self-management' skills in later life, is being developed by healthcare experts from the university, working alongside a group of older adult volunteers from the local community. The latter group will contribute first-hand knowledge and experience of some of the issues facing people as they grow older, and will then be responsible for delivering hands-on training to their peers, by sharing their experience and newly acquired knowledge.

Pat Schofield, Professor of Nursing at the university, who is leading the self-management training programme, says it is one of the first of its kind in the UK to place older adults at the heart of both learning and teaching. "We have come up with a highly innovative programme which aims to enable older adults to take control of their own needs. It will increase their coping skills and their well-being," she says.

"The programme will be developed and tested by older adults themselves. There is strong evidence that advice will be more readily accepted by contemporaries who are of a similar age and level of experience to those who will be teaching some of these skills."

Professor Schofield, an expert in pain management among the older population, says the demographic shift in the UK will have a big impact on healthcare. Over the next 25 years in Britain alone, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to grow from nearly ten million to 15 million. "We need to consider innovative and creative ways of delivering care in the future," she says. "We have an ageing population who wish to be more independent. By providing this user-driven, self- management programme, we will be helping older adults to take more control, while reducing the cost to the NHS."

The programme, funded by South London Membership Council (SLMC), can be delivered by face-to-face teaching as well as online, on paper and through video and radio. There are also plans for it to be taught by organisations including Age UK, Saga and Alzheimers UK.

It has been developed by the university's Centre for Positive Ageing. Part of the Faculty of Education & Health, the centre brings together academics from a range of disciplines across the university – from health and pharmacy to science and technology – to share their expertise in helping people to grow older in a happy and healthy way.

The training is timely in view of the national agenda. Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, says he wants to see more older people staying in their homes and living within the community, and fewer admitted to care homes.

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