Older adults with cancer: designing a diet and activity model of care

This project aims to co-design and test the feasibility of a new diet and physical activity programme for older people with cancer based on their values and needs.

  • Topic: Combination of cancers
  • Institution: University of Queensland
  • Country: Australia
  • Status: Ongoing
Researcher: Ruth Hubbard

Grant title: Designing a novel frailty-focused diet and physical activity model of care for older adults with cancer based on their values and needs

Older cancer patients’ conditions worsen when they are also frail. But we know this can be turned around with a good diet and physical activity. We are thrilled to be awarded the World Cancer Research Fund grant. This grant enables our amazing multidisciplinary frailty research team to co-design a diet and exercise intervention with our older patients who are undergoing cancer treatment. Our goal is to test a diet and physical activity programme that tackles frailty based on what our older patients with cancer want and value – Prof Ruth Hubbard

Background

Older people account for nearly half of all cancer cases in the world. Unfortunately, older people undergoing cancer treatment have poorer outcomes including reduced survival rate when compared with younger people. There are many reasons for poorer outcomes in older people with cancer, but frailty is a significant contributor.

Frailty is the progressive decline in the body’s ability to function, often seen with increasing age. It is associated with reduced strength and endurance, and increases chance of requiring extra care or death. Studies have shown frailty in older people can be slowed or reversed through diet and physical activity; however, it is not known whether they have these same positive effects for older people with cancer or if this is something of importance to them. More research is needed to find how best to support people with diet and physical activity in a way that is most practical and valued by older people with cancer.

Aims and objectives

This project aims to co-design and test the feasibility of a new diet and physical activity programme for older people with cancer based on their values and needs. We will do this by:

  1. understanding the older persons’ cancer journey.
  2. finding out what older people with cancer, family members and healthcare workers want and think is important when screening or providing treatment for frailty.
  3. working in partnership with older people and their family members to co-design and test a frailty-focused diet and physical activity programme.

How it will be done

This study includes three main phases: Explore, Co-design, Test. In the Explore phase, we will talk to a diverse range of older people, their family members and health professionals to understand the cancer journey, values and needs.

In the Co-design phase, we will work in partnership with older people and their family to design a programme that best meets the needs of the patients.

In the Test phase, we will deliver the programme to 10 older people and evaluate whether it is feasible and acceptable.

Potential impact

This study will allow us to explore the values and needs of older patients with cancer, a group often not included in cancer research due to their multiple medical conditions, physical and cognitive limits. The co-design process will make sure the programme meets their needs, ensuring meaningful and valued outcomes for the older person and their families. Ultimately it is our aim to have this programme available for older people with cancer to provide them and their families with better support during and after their cancer treatment.