CALL-ME Project

Promoting Independence and Social Engagement among Older People in Disadvantaged Communities

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A growing body of research highlights the challenges faced by older people in disadvantaged urban communities. This group may experience a variety of risks associated with ill health, poverty, social isolation and loneliness, vulnerability to crime, and a lack of opportunities to engage in local and national decision-making processes. In contrast to a growing evidence base highlighting the challenges faced by older people in disadvantaged communities, there is limited work that explores how new initiatives can begin to address such groups’ concerns and to clarify the issues involved in promoting independence and social engagement or active ageing.

This project seeks to move away from an assessment of the problems associated with ageing in socially deprived communities towards a new focus on the ways in which community action by older people can contribute to active ageing in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods.


  • Michael Murray, Keele University
  • Thomas Scharf, Keele University
  • Sian Maslin-Prothero, Keele University
  • Roger Beech, Keele University


  • Friederike Ziegler, Keele University
  • Jan Bailey, Keele University
  • Sharon Middling, Keele University
  • Amanda Crummett, Field Worker

Partners and Collaborators

  • 'Valuing Older People' Team
  • Manchester City Council and partner organisations

Contact details

Michael Murray


  • To clarify the issues older people resident in disadvantaged communities themselves identify as important regarding social engagement and independence;

  • To assess the impact of different community initiatives on active ageing;

  • To identify the particular social and psychological processes involved in promoting active ageing through such community initiatives; and

  • To develop policy recommendations for promoting active ageing in disadvantaged communities.

Somali Women’s Support Group, Moss Side



The study adopts a participatory action design. This involves a cycle of research, encompassing:

  • agenda setting (assessing community concerns, collecting basic data);
  • planning (facilitating development of objectives, helping to develop an action plan);
  • implementation (action coupled with monitoring the process, communicating information); and
  • outcome (assessing community competence, detecting community outcomes, developing new action plans).

The cycle of research and action will be built around four different forms of community initiative. This will maximise the opportunity to clarify the underlying processes involved in engaging with older people resident in disadvantaged areas and the particular character of different forms of social action.

Community initiatives: The types of community initiative have been chosen not only because they build on existing work within the study communities, but also because of their contrasting approaches to social engagement and their potential policy relevance. The initiatives are:

  • A community welfare advice initiative;
  • A community arts initiative;
  • A community health technology initiative; and
  • A community health initiative.

Through comparative work the project will explore the interconnection between the social and health aspects of well-being among groups of older people.

Four Seasons Garden Group, Cheatham


The research will be based in multiply disadvantaged neighbourhoods in East Manchester. The city of Manchester represents an ideal setting for the study, given the presence of a variety of initiatives, which aim to promote health and community well-being. However, these initiatives have often been disconnected and have had limited formal evaluation.

Participants: The project will recruit around 200 people aged 60 and over from two East Manchester wards (encompassing four distinct neighbourhoods). All participants will be resident in their own homes, and will be accessed through statutory and voluntary agencies operating in the area. Initial study participants will be encouraged to participate in further recruitment so that the study can engage with particularly isolated older people.

Young at Heart Group, Ardwick


Activity implementation: Each study area will initially be assigned to a particular community initiative. In each area, the project will begin with a series of community meetings to explain the project and to involve residents in the further design of the project. After clarifying the aims of the study, participants will be invited to more formal group discussions. This will give participants the opportunity to detail their views and expectations of the project. Collection of both qualitative and quantitative data relating to participants’ quality of life, their social engagement, and community perceptions, will occur at the beginning and close of each community initiative. Group discussions will be audio- or video-recorded, and recordings will be used at the close of each initiative as part of the review discussion.

Moss Side Community Garden Group


The project seeks to ensure community involvement in the design and implementation of the various initiatives. Each community will establish a local project committee that will include members of the research team and older participants, and will coordinate the local project. During each project, there will be opportunities for the committee and the wider community of older people to review the project’s progress. Alongside an overall project coordinating committee, local project committees will play a key role in ongoing data analysis. This process encourages local communities to take ownership of the activity and of the research.

Policy implications

The research is designed to have community, policy and theoretical implications. Outputs will be aimed at both academic and a range of ‘user’ audiences.

  • The research will generate new knowledge about the substantive issues addressed by the study and by its innovative methods.
  • The project seeks to promote the development and sustainability of community initiatives with diverse groups of older people. Community residents and partners will be involved in discussion about potential research outputs. Outputs are likely to include forums in each of the study areas to discuss the findings and to consider plans for extending the initiatives.
  • The research team will work closely with partners in Manchester to encourage the design of policies and practices that can improve the quality of older people’s lives. A wider audience of policy makers will be targeted through workshops, aimed at informing the ongoing development of Manchester City Council’s ageing strategy.


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