About our Project

Newcastle 85+ Study

In May 2006 a multidisciplinary team in the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University began a major groundbreaking study of the lives of those aged 85 years and older. Recognising that far too little was known about their health and care needs, despite being fastest growing age-sector in the UK and in many other countries. Initially led by Professor Tom Kirkwood, the Newcastle 85+ Study recruited a birth cohort of more than one thousand 85 year olds from Newcastle and North Tyneside. Since September 2016, the study has been led by Dr Rachel Duncan and is now in its 10th year of follow up.

The study aimed to:

  • Assess, in great detail, the spectrum of health in the oldest old.
  • Examine the associations of health trajectories and outcomes with biological, clinical and social factors as the cohort ages.
  • Identify factors which contribute to the maintenance of health and independence.
  • Advance understanding of the biological nature of human ageing.

Information was gathered by research nurses visiting participants in their own home to complete a health assessment comprising questionnaires, measurements, function tests and a fasting blood test. Nurses also reviewed participants general practice records for information on disease, medication and use of general practice services. In addition, participants were ‘flagged’ with the Health and Social Care Information Centre (NSCIC), to provide details of the date and cause of death; it is planned to track the cohort until the last survivor has died.

This Newcastle 85+ study has been transformational. It has opened up a wealth of knowledge teasing out the complex factors contributing to health in old age and providing extensive data on the value of multiple molecular and cellular biomarkers in predicting and explaining individual differences in the health of very old people. 

Increased understanding of the health and care needs of today's and tomorrow's populations, and the underlying biology of ageing will potentially contribute to new insights into how the ageing process acts as the single largest risk factor for a great number of diseases and for age-related frailty and disability. Addressing a key challenge in maximising the health and quality of life in old age and minimising dependency.