Twelve projects are to share £3 million in new grants to support research into improving the quality of life of the elderly.
The New Dynamics of Ageing Programme (NDA), an interdisciplinary collaboration between five of the UK's research councils, has issued its second round of funding to "ensure that ageing research has the maximum benefit to both the economy and society."
Liz Lloyd, senior lecturer in social gerontology at the Centre for Health and Social Care at Bristol University, is one recipient. Her team will examine whether care currently given to the elderly supports or undermines their dignity. Her £228,000 project will track 40 over-75s who require care over a period of 30 months.
Dr Lloyd will work alongside Michael Calnan, professor of medical sociology at Kent University, and Jane Seymour, head of the Centre for Palliative Care at Nottingham University, and the UK charity Help the Aged.
She said: "Dignity is one of those all-encompassing terms: you know it when you see it or when you see it undermined.
"It incorporates respect, recognition, autonomy and independence, all of which are tremendously important to old people. It is at this stage where these things start to get lost," she said.
"Insufficient attention is given to the impact of life-changing decisions, such as whether to stay in their own home or seek nursing care. Towards the end of life, many old people's condition is similar to that of people with advanced cancer, but the care they receive is in stark contrast.
"We are looking for acceptance among baby boomers that they too will lose that independence. It's ironic that we've been so successful at extending life but have created a situation where the circumstances in which we die are pretty awful."
The 12 NDA-funded projects range from topics in bio-mechanics to social issues such as the meaning of ageing in different ethnic groups.