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Help and support to stay independent as we age: who is missing out?

Written by Dr. Gemma Spiers, Senior Research Associate 20/04/21


Living independently in our own home and community is hugely important to our health and wellbeing.  Being able to carry out day to day tasks, such as cooking, cleaning the house, and getting washed and dressed, give us a sense of control and autonomy.  Having the means to get outdoors in our local area gives us the opportunity to exercise, access services, and stay connected with others.  Staying independent with these sorts of activities is integral to the quality of our daily lives.

As people age, some of these day to day tasks might get a little harder. Everyone is different, and some people might need help with these activities.  Getting the right support is important, but local services are not always available or affordable. This means that not everyone gets the help that they need to stay independent.

The good news is that we are seeing more evidence about these issues. This evidence can tell us who is least likely to get the help they need, as well as the sort of circumstances that play a role in this.  The challenge for researchers is trying to make sense of all this evidence. It’s a growing area with enormous implications for health and social care policy. In order to advise policy makers about how to ensure that people get the support they need to stay independent, we need a clear view of what this evidence is telling us.

Our systematic review, starting this spring, aims to achieve this goal. With a team of specialists, we will answer two key questions:

  1. Which factors are associated with unmet need for support to maintain independence in later life?
  2. Which groups of older people are at greatest risk of having an unmet need for support to maintain independence?

Over the course of the project, we’ll be blogging about our progress with the review, so keep checking back for updates.  We would also like to involve members of the public with this work – more details about this will be available soon.  In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with us if you would like more information about this work.

Review title: Factors associated with unmet need for support to maintain independence in later life: a mixed methods systematic review

Contact details:


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Older People and Frailty Policy Research Unit, Departments of Health and Social Care or the National Institute of Health and Care Research.


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