Date Published: September 1, 2017
Publisher: Springer International Publishing
Author(s): Anna C. Whittaker, Massimo Delledonne, Taija Finni, Paolo Garagnani, Carolyn Greig, Victor Kallen, Katja Kokko, Janet Lord, Andrea B. Maier, Carel G. M. Meskers, Nadine Correia Santos, Sarianna Sipila, Janice L. Thompson, Natal van Riel.
Current demographic trends indicate that by the year 2020, almost one in five of the European population will be aged 65 years or over. Although life expectancy is increasing by 2 years per decade, the period of life spent in good health is not keeping pace and most Europeans spend their last decade in poor health. Consequently, there is an urgent need to understand how lifestyle factors can influence age-related changes from gene to society level and how they may be integrated into a net effect of healthy ageing. It is also crucial to develop and validate interventions and health policies to ensure that more of our older adults have a healthy and active later life. This is an urgent and cross-cutting research priority in Europe, and to achieve this, it is vital to increase research capacity in this area to push forward the frontiers of scientific understanding. The Horizon 2020 funded Marie Curie Sklodowska Innovative Training Network—PANINI is addressing this capacity issue by focusing on research and training in two major interacting lifestyle factors with impact at multiple levels, namely, physical activity and nutrition.
PANINI will recommend a key set of gold standard nutrition and physical activity measures in ageing as a standardised toolkit, and make this widely available outside the PANINI consortium to encourage standardised measurement. Through the toolkit, we will bring together all of the PANINI projects to contribute to the development of a shared database for analysis of various ageing profiles across the range of older adult populations. Our data management plan (available on the PANINI website) is that this standardisation will result in a unique shared data set from which ageing profiles across countries, settings, frailty, and independence status could be determined and compared focusing particularly on nutritional status, physical activity, and physical function, as well as comparing relative change across the interventions in the network. The main components of the toolkit are: socio-demographics; anthropometrics (including body composition where possible); comorbidities and medication use; typical health behaviours including water intake; nutritional assessment questionnaire (and food frequency questionnaires or food/diet diaries where possible); physical activity via questionnaires (and accelerometry where possible); physical function via the short physical performance battery (SPPB); frailty through hand-grip strength, balance, and walking speed; falls efficacy and activities of daily living scales; brief cognitive assessment; and depression assessment.
To understand the impact of age-related changes upon normal body processes such as nutritional intake, and exercise capacity, and to relate this to overall effects on physical and mental well-being, a multidisciplinary approach is required. PANINI is providing multidisciplinary PhD training and secondments (summarised in Table 2) across an inter-sectoral network of eight leading academic and non-academic research institutions across Europe (six universities, one research enterprise, and one SME, as detailed in Table 1). Our partners: six private sector companies (Danone Nutricia Research; HUR Ltd.; HURLabs; Move it or Lose it; Scriptoria; and Blueberry Training); one large healthcare partner (University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust); two ageing charities (Age UK and UNIEKBO); and one Joint Research Council, who contribute to training, supervision, and dissemination, providing an innovative and inter-sectoral environment to produce maximum impact of PANINI’s research. We are keen to open up the PANINI training network to other research and training networks; our main activities, open to (a limited number of) external participants, are detailed in Table 2; so please contact the PI if interested. It is also our plan to develop a CPD distance learning course from the materials developed and delivered during the PANINI project, after its completion, to increase training resources and build research capacity in multidisciplinary ageing research.
PANINI’s approach to dissemination, impact, and innovation is to co-create our strategy with our stakeholders, holding public engagement events annually. These will allow us to refine our research methodology and dissemination approaches to meet stakeholder needs and expectations. Researchers will engage the public via annual individual or small group interactive activities such as science association events, older adults’ societies, articles in older adults’ newsletters, pod/vodcasts, and the media in a widely accessible manner. Further, an initial PANINI public engagement event is planned for midway through the project, where the ESRs will engage older adults with key messages and demonstrations from their projects. A final larger scale public engagement event is planned for the end of the network. Older adults and representatives from charities, industry, and the health sector with an interest in ageing research will be invited to attend these events. Midway through the project, it is our intention to present PANINI symposia at relevant interdisciplinary conferences with a focus on ageing, presenting the goals of the network and initial findings from the individual ESR projects and their collaborative work. Towards the end of the project, with key stakeholders, e.g., ageing charities, health professionals, and policy makers, we will refine a set of physical activity and nutritional intake recommendations for older adults of different frailty and dependency statuses which will be integrated with the knowledge gained regarding nutritional intake and physical function across the network. This will be integrated into a policy document for healthy ageing and discussed with representatives of health policy-making bodies at national (e.g., Public Health England) and European levels (e.g., EIP-AHA and DG-SANCO). These activities are summarised in Table 2; our dissemination plan is available on the PANINI website.