EngAGE ageing conference showcases latest developments on campus

03 May 2019

People in Scotland are living for longer – but can we do more to keep people healthy and active into their old age? A new online physiotherapy service created by experienced physiotherapists at Glasgow Caledonian University aims to do just that. The platform is already being used by patients in Scotland and Canada, and it will be demonstrated at the new 'EngAGE' conference and public event at the University's Glasgow campus later this month. The conference aims to recognise the importance of older people's contribution to society and free registration is available now.

"I am really interested in how we can use technology to support healthy ageing in Scotland and internationally too," says Professor Lorna Paul, part of the team behind the Giraffe Healthcare physiotherapy website who, between them, have more than 40 years of experience in treatment and research. "This is an exciting area which is moving forward at an amazingly fast pace. There is now huge potential to deliver practical healthcare online – especially now we know more than 80% of people over 65 are accessing the internet. The EngAGE conference is bringing people together to collaborate and discuss innovative multi-faceted solutions to support us to be healthy and stay healthy as we get older. The public event gives people the chance to see the latest developments themselves, including several like ours which are being led here at GCU."

Among the main conference speakers on Thursday, May 23, is Professor Dawn Skelton, who leads the University's Ageing Well research group. "We have found the best way of improving health and reducing loneliness and social isolation is to help older people to be more engaged in their community and lead more active lives. I'll be sharing how this increases self-esteem and the ability to self-manage conditions, enabling people to live more independent lives and reducing pressure on the health service."

The economic importance of sustaining an older workforce is driving the need for a fresh perspective on ageing. The event has been created by The Herald and GenAnalytics in association with the Scottish Government and speakers include Minister for Older People, Christina McKelvie MSP, and Chair of NHS24, Esther Roberton. Delegates will also have a range of expert-led panel discussions to choose from. 

As well as presenting challenges for the health service, the increasing number of older people also demands a response from the business, housing and transport sectors.  Professor Paul says: "More than 2 million people in Scotland have at least one long-term condition and that diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia become more common and problematic as we get older. There are also huge differences in life expectancy and health problems depending on where you live."

The online physiotherapy service developed by Professor Paul and her colleagues aims to address issues of finite health care budgets and many older people's difficulty in accessing face-to-face services. "The University helped us form Giraffe Healthcare as a start-up social enterprise to deliver high quality, personalised physiotherapy through an online platform. It has extensive library of exercise videos, an exercise diary and gives online access to therapists so the treatment can vary in response to any changes in the clinical condition. We are working with physiotherapists in the public, private and third sectors, in the UK but also overseas in Canada and Ghana to ensure that physiotherapy is available to people, young and old, depending on their need, not their circumstance."