Involving older age: the route to twenty-first century well-being
Shaping our Age was a three year research and development project supported by the Big Lottery Research Programme and a 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 aimed to connect and interweave two key concerns: improving older people’s well-being and increasing their involvement while providing new insights into emerging issues around ageing.
The final report of Shaping our Age describes the context, background and aims of the whole project and then presents seven key findings which arose from the national consultations and the local projects.
Watch these lovely photo-films from each of the 5 local projects involved in Shaping our Age:
The key findings
Participants defined well-being in personal terms.
- Social Connectedness was by far the most strongly voiced and frequently mentioned aspect shaping well-being.
- The ‘doing to’ approach - traditional approaches to working with older people, while meeting important needs, are not necessarily conducive to improving their well-being.
- An involvement-led approach to working with older people helps to create and sustain a humanistic process that can enhance social and personal well-being.
- Involvement in a process of personal development and small group interactions contributed most to social and personal well-being.
- Education and training are required for an involvement-led approach to working with older people.
- There are significant barriers to involving older people in improving well-being.
The report then goes on to draw conclusions and make recommendations for policy and practice.
Two overriding messages emerged from the findings:
- Social connectedness and positive relationships are central to older people’s well-being.
- Older people have important insights to contribute to the well-being debate.
These messages have a number of implications:
- The need for a shift in mindset from notions of personal deficit to one which focuses on older people’s capacities to shape their own well-being
- An involvement-led approach values the potential of older people and offers new possibilities for tackling barriers to well-being and issues of exclusion.
- The shift to an involvement-led approach will require changes in worker/volunteer education, training and roles.
The next steps: informing change
A supportive framework for involvement and well-being is needed to release the contribution, experiences and energies of older people. Here are some practical recommendations that arose from the research:
- Promote a new culture of ageing by challenging negative perceptions of older people
- Introduce policies that facilitate and enable the involvement of older people
- Commit to changing to organisational cultures that demonstrate principles of involvement and inclusion of older people at the highest levels in organisations
- Promote involvement-led approaches to working with older people
- Implement systems within organisations to support involvement, including accessible venues, transport and funding in support of training, personal care and activities.
- Build partnerships between organisations to maximise funding opportunities
- Undertake further research
The overall findings from the project as presented in the Final Report will be used to inform Royal Voluntary Service and disseminated across national and local government, NHS, third sector and other providers.
Findings will help promote a culture shift towards a user-centred and human rights based approach to understanding well-being and the tools to deliver it, offering benefits to the wider UK older population.
You can download a copy of the final project report by clicking the link on the right. The supporting documents, including a summary report on the project's key findings and a tools and techniques guide to working with older people, can be downloaded below.
Through a national consultation with older people, as well as five local projects carried out as part of Shaping our Age, the report suggests a future model for services for older people which would involve older people themselves in helping develop the kind of services and activities that will contribute most to their well-being. Key factors include starting with the older people and using their expertise and knowledge, having small groups for activities and actually doing what older people want to do rather than dictating what they should do.
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