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Involving older people

Involving older peopleThe Shaping our Age project has reached its conclusion. The culmination of three years of working with older people on the project has resulted in a wealth of information and learning about working in an involvement-led way with older people. This approach involves starting with the individual or group and really listening to them, finding out about them and working alongside them to facilitate a process or activity that enhances well-being. The final Shaping our Age reports describe the approaches we used in some detail. They also contrast this involving way of working with a commonly used and traditional model of working with older people, the ‘doing to’ approach.

The findings are presented in a suite of reports and photo-films. We hope that learning from Download Involving Older Age reportShaping our Age presented in these materials will influence and transform how Royal Voluntary Service works with older people and the way we approach living well in old age. We also hope that Shaping our Age will inform the entire sector of older people’s services including national and local government, health authorities and other partners to enable older people in their well-being to help themselves and each other.

Download the final project report or supporting documents, including a summary report, on the project's key findings, a local project report and a tools and techniques guide to working with older people.

The report was launched on 26 June 2013 at a conference chaired by David Brindle, Public Services Editor of The Guardian newspaper and attended by delegates including people from Shaping our Age partner organisations, other charities, local authorities, universities, funding organisations, our Older People's Reference Group and Royal Voluntary Service staff.

Shaping our Age logo

This is a critical time in the national debate around supporting older people to lead full lives as active citizens.

The numbers and proportion of older and very old people will continue to grow significantly. The debate surrounding this tends to stereotype older people as a problem especially at a time when cuts in public spending are imposing financial constraints on systems of care and adding to the ‘cost burden’ on a decreasing proportion of taxpayers. Shaping our Age challenges these negative perspectives and highlights the opportunity for older people to be supported and enabled to be active contributors to society and to challenge notions of dependency.

Shaping our Age was a three-year, Big Lottery funded project and unique partnership between Royal Voluntary Service, the Centre for Citizen Participation at Brunel University and the Centre for Social Action at De Montfort University .

The project’s aims were to explore how older people define their well-being, and to develop participatory ways in which older people could help each other to achieve their well-being. 

The project was in four phases:

National consultation

National consultation

We held interviews and focus groups with a diverse range of older people all across the UK building on their experience and knowledge on the subject of well-being.

Defining well-being

Defining well-being

We published our research report Voices on Well-being which reported on how older people define well-being and measures of their own well-being.

Local activity

Local activity

We worked with older people in five local Shaping our Age projects over 13 months. We aimed to identify innovative ways for older people individually and collectively to improve their own ageing.



We have provided the evidence and tools for Royal Voluntary Service and others to transform the support they offer to improve older people’s well-being and to campaign to put well-being, as defined by older people, at the centre of their work.

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