Rural Ageing research

A rural ageing research agenda using the OPeRA (Older People in Rural Areas) network

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This 12-month project builds on the capacity of OPeRA (Older People in Rural Areas), an applied research collaboration between three universities in south west England (Bournemouth University, University of Plymouth and University of the West of England) to create an interdisciplinary research programme on rural ageing.

This network received NDA funding and became the Grey and Pleasant Land project


Catherine Hennessy, University of Plymouth

Contact details

Catherine Hennessy


Rural areas have some of the highest rates of population ageing in the UK, however comparatively little research has been done on the impact and implications of the 'greying countryside'.


The overall focus of the research programme has been defined and developed as the determinants and impact of older people’s involvement in civil society in rural areas. The project has been carried out based on three strands of input:

  1. an interdisciplinary review of the research literature on older rural people and civil society covering areas such as older people's contributions to social and cultural capital, and barriers and facilitators to social inclusion in rural settings;

  2. consultation with an Older People's Panel of rural residents through face-to-face and 'virtual' meetings; and

  3. the participation of additional academic and non-academic partners. These include collaborations established with the University of Cardiff and the University of Swansea to expand the geographic coverage of the research programme, and the engagement of partner organisations relevant to the proposed programme's work packages in addition to existing non-academic alliances (e.g., with South West Regional Development Agency, Age Concern).

A typology for differentiating rural areas and a related sampling strategy for selecting candidate areas for the research in England and Wales has been developed by team members at the Wales Rural Observatory and the Countryside and Community Research Institute (UWE/ University of Gloucestershire).

Policy implications

The disciplinary coverage of the programme encompasses among other areas gerontology, social and behavioural sciences, rural studies, geography, informatics, the visual arts and heritage studies.

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