Tackling Frailty For Healthy Ageing 

Presenter: Professor Renuka Visvanathan

In the last seven years, clinicians and researchers have become more familiar with the term frailty. However, frailty means different things to different people. Clinically, frailty refers to a state of vulnerability to stressors such as acute illnesses. Those frail are at risk of poor health outcomes such as loss of independence, hospitalisation and placement into residential aged care.  

We estimated that one in five community dwelling older people were frail in 2016. We projected a 50% growth in these numbers over a decade. We also know that increasingly, aged care services are being called upon to manage frailer older individuals. Frailty can also be seen in younger people. It is not exclusively a health issue that is confined to those 65 years and older. Therefore, clinicians across multiple specialties and care settings need to be upskilled to manage this health issue whilst consumers need to be more aware that there are ways to improve their health. 

To tackle frailty, we must focus on four main approaches. Firstly, consumers should be empowered to adopt health practices including lifestyle habits that prevent frailty. Next, early identification of risk by clinicians or consumers could lead to interventions to reduce frailty risk. Thirdly, those frail should be comprehensively assessed and have interventions personalised to improve functional outcomes. Finally, for some who are nearing the end of life, avoiding futile interventions and establishing end of life goals may be appropriate. 

About the presenter

Professor Renuka Visvanathan is Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Adelaide and was the Project Lead for the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing. She is also a geriatrician and Head of Unit of the Aged & Extended Care Services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Central Adelaide Local Health Network, South Australia. She was named as one of the inaugural Ageing 50, leaders transforming the world to be a better place to grow older (A United Nation Healthy Ageing Decade initiative). 

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