Understanding frailty: meanings and beliefs about screening and prevention across key stakeholder groups in Europe

Rachel Shaw*, Holly Gwyther, Carol Holland, Maria Bujnowska, Donata Kurpas, Antonio Cano, Maura Marcucci, Silvia Riva, Barbara D'Avanzo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Innovative methods to manage frailty are critical to managing the needs of an ageing population. Evidence suggests there are opportunities to reverse or prevent frailty through early intervention. However, little is known about older adults’, families’ and practitioners’ beliefs about the malleability of frailty. This study examined European stakeholders’ accounts of the acceptability and feasibility of frailty screening and prevention to inform future intervention development. Semi-structured focus groups and individual interviews were conducted in three European Union countries (Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom) with key stakeholders – frail and non-frail older adults, family care-givers, and health and social care professionals. Thematic analysis identified four themes: synchronicity between the physical and the psychological in frailty, living with frailty in the social world, the need for a new kind of care, and screening for and preventing frailty. Findings emphasised the need for a holistic approach to frailty care and early intervention. Integrated care services and advocacy were important in the organisation of care. Central to all stakeholders was the significance of the psychological and social alongside the physical elements of frailty and frailty prevention. Support and care for older adults and their family care-givers needs to be accessible and co-ordinated. Interventions to prevent frailty must encompass a social dimension to help older adults maintain a sense of self while building physical and psychological resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1252
Number of pages30
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number6
Early online date11 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

COPYRIGHT: © Cambridge University Press 2017.
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funding: Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) of the European Commission, under the European Union Health Programme (2014–2020).


  • ageing
  • European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP-AHA)
  • European Union
  • frailty
  • qualitative research
  • thematic analysis


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