Promoting Independence and Social Engagement among Older People in Disadvantaged Communities
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.
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:
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:
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.
The research is designed to have community, policy and theoretical implications. Outputs will be aimed at both academic and a range of ‘user’ audiences.