First-of-its-kind frailty map aims to inform healthy ageing services

A new online interactive tool maps the current and future prevalence of frailty around Australia for the first time.

A new online interactive tool maps the current and future prevalence of frailty around Australia for the first time.

The frailty web map has been developed by researchers at the University of Adelaide’s Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing to help raise awareness and inform health and aged care services.

Project research lead Dr Danielle Taylor presented the map at a frailty and healthy ageing research showcase in Adelaide this week.

Dr Danielle Taylor

“As our population ages, even if prevalence rate doesn’t increase, the number of people at risk of frailty is going to increase greatly,” Dr Taylor told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“Populations are not distributed uniformly across all areas so we can start to use the mapping to identify areas where more vulnerable people are.”

Frailty increases a person’s vulnerability to adverse health outcomes including loss of mobility, falls, hospitalisation and death.

Dr Taylor said that while frailty was associated with ageing, it was preventable and treatable, rather that inevitable.

The first step in addressing frailty is identifying it, which is where the map comes in, she said.

The interactive map shows population estimates of the number of frail and pre-frail people within all Australian suburbs for 2011, 2016 and 2027.

It shows that the number of frail people in some suburbs around capital cities are projected to double, such as Uraidla in the Adelaide Hills (see image below).

The information can be used to inform resource distribution such as the provision of health and aged care services to areas likely to have a high level of need, Dr Taylor said.

“The aged care sector could use that information to know the areas where they would expect to have a large number of people with frailty and understand the areas where frailty screening might be valuable,” she said.

Partial screensot of University of Adelaide’s interactive frailty map

More than 415,000 people were frail and 1.7 million pre-frail in 2016 and more than 600,000 people will be frail and 2.2 million pre-frail in 2027, according to estimates.

Frailty is expected to grow fastest in regional, remote and outer metropolitan areas.

Australia is the first country to develop a frailty web map of this kind, putting it in a unique position to address this growing issue, Dr Taylor said.

“Reducing frailty will improve the quality of life of many older Australians, enabling them to remain independent and living for longer in their own homes, while also reducing the higher utilisation of health services, a characteristic of frailty,” Dr Taylor said.

Benetas’ frailty study, which was commissioned by the Commonwealth Government and published in January 2018, recommended govenrment develop a map of frailty prevalence (read about the study here).

Dr Taylor said they had already started work on the map when the report came out and were now hoping to work with governments and health departments to use and further develop the map.

The map is available for anyone to use including individuals, community groups and service providers. Access it here.

Dr Taylor presented the map at Healthy Ageing: Every Step Matters, research showcase in Adelaide on Thursday.

Frailty video

The showcase included the launch of the first in a series of informational videos prepared by Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute that emphasise frailty can affect people of any age.

The videos are a collaboration between Flinders University, The University of Adelaide and Torrens University, via The Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing, involving consumers, academics and clinicians.

The videos aim to fill the need for contemporary, evidence-based resources that clearly explain frailty and healthy ageing, said project lead Dr Mandy Archibald from Flinders University.

Dr Archibald and Centre of Research Excellence colleague Rachel Ambagtsheer recently received additional funding from the Australian Association of Gerontology to develop two additional videos, and to translate the existing animation into Mandarin.

Watch the video here: Frailty: Every Step You Take Matters!

A screenshot of the Centre of Research Excellence in Frailty and Healthy Ageing’s informational video about frailty

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