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"Being frail is not a disease."

Written by Christine McCurdy
on February 11, 2022

2021 Ryman Prize winner Kenneth Rockwood interviewed on RNZ 

Canadian academic, geriatrician, anti-ageing campaigner, and 2021 Ryman Prize winner Professor Kenneth Rockwood was interviewed for Nine to Noon on RNZ today. 

To listen to the interview, click here 

Professor Rockwood is a professor of medicine and neurology at Dalhousie University based in Halifax and won the prize for developing his clinical frailty index which is used in health care systems around the world. 

He says that hospitals and medical clinics do not always cope well with people who are frail, despite it becoming an increasingly common factor in ageing. 

As people age, they often develop more complex health issues with multiple conditions (comorbidities) that impact on their overall health.  

This is a challenge for healthcare systems primarily designed to focus on specialties, which are not well equipped to deal with complexity. Health professionals in one specialty are often unaware of other issues that might be affecting their patient. 

To effectively treat the patient without making them feel worse, understanding is needed of how frailty is impacting on them, and communication with older people about their health is vital. 

The clinical frailty index takes a person’s comorbidities into account to help quantify the degree of frailty they have, making diagnosis and treatment more accurate and effective. 

"We need people who can understand the most common things that go awry with ageing, and how to deal with them,” says Professor Rockwood. 

“I am extremely grateful for the Ryman award, I’m really glad they’ve set it up the way they have, to raise interest in people. I hadn’t thought of myself as an anti-ageism campaigner, but frailty is a way to challenge ageism.  

“You have to do it with a lot of heart or none of it will work.” 

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

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