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12 April 2012 | PR 12/66

New research will investigate how sight loss impacts physical activity

Academics in Loughborough University’s Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport are working with the European Centre for Environment & Human Health on a new 12 month project to examine the effects of sight loss on physical activity in older adults.

The research award has been given by the Thomas Pocklington Trust, a registered charity that provides housing and support for people with sight loss in the UK.

The project aims to improve our understanding of physical activity in older people with sight loss, and use this information to help guide policies that can promote health and wellbeing in those affected by the condition.

Participants will be recruited from Cornwall, the East Midlands and London to provide the study with a nationally relevant context, and give a voice to a group who have so far been largely overlooked in health policy.

Drs Brett Smith and David Howe from Loughborough are working with primary investigator Dr Cassandra Phoenix from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health for the project. Researchers will conduct face-to-face and mobile ‘walk and talk’ interviews with participants, who will also be asked to record a two-week audio diary.

Each year Pocklington funds research initiatives that can help identify ways to improve the lives of people with sight loss. By being physically active, older adults can lower their risk of developing diseases (including dementia), improve wellbeing and maintain a greater level of independence.

This research is seeking to identify the factors that prevent and enable physical activity in those aged between 60 and 75 years old, as a result of sight loss, and develop measures to overcome them.

Dr Brett Smith explains:

“Most of us will experience sight loss as we get older, which can impact on our ability to stay physically active. There is currently no research looking at physical activity amongst older adults with sight loss, so this project provides an important opportunity to understand the needs of this group within the wider context of an ageing population.” 

Sarah Buchanan, Research Director at Pocklington Trust adds:

“Two million people in the UK have sight loss which affects their everyday lives - most are aged over 65 and everyone in that age group is likely to have reduced vision. 

“Pocklington is committed to research which has practical effects on improving the lives of people with sight loss. By funding this project we aim to increase knowledge and understanding of participation in physical activity among older people with sight loss and influence policy and practice in a way that will support positive experiences and engagement in this important part of people’s lives.”

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223491
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Alex Smalley
Communications Manager
The European Centre for Environment and Human Health
T: 01872 258135
E: alexander.smalley@pcmd.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

1. The European Centre for Environment and Human Health (part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry which is a joint entity of the University of Exeter, the University of Plymouth and the NHS in the South West) is supported by investment from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and ESF (European Social Fund) Convergence Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry is a partner in the Combined Universities in Cornwall.

2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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