Social Gerontology

The social lives of older people living in Wingrove

Our project aims to explore how older people living in the Wingrove ward in Newcastle feel about their social lives, including their relationships with friends, family, neighbours and more informal contacts and connections.

An individual’s experiences and perceptions of their social lives and relationships can have an impact on other aspects of their lives, such as health and wellbeing. For example, older adults with weaker social ties are at greater risk of early death, ill health and poor wellbeing. Where people live can also play an important part in shaping relationships and interactions. Wingrove is a diverse area of Newcastle in terms of the age, ethnicity, health and other characteristics of residents. Around 10% of people living in Wingrove are aged 60 or over, and the average age of residents is around 30 years old.

We will adopt a locally embedded, participatory approach to exploring the complex issue of social interaction in later life. The project will begin with 20-30 interviews with older people (aged 60 and over) living in Wingrove, focusing on their social lives and interactions. We will then hold a series of co-design workshops with older people living in Wingrove and other stakeholders, researchers and developers. The specific focus of these workshops will be determined by the findings from thematic analysis of the interviews. The aim of the workshops will be to develop ideas about opportunities for innovative digital technologies to support, promote and/or capture social interaction in Wingrove.

Ageing in Place

Demographic ageing has raised many issues for policy and practice, particularly in terms of how society should best support and care for the ageing population. Governments around the western world have recommended that older people should be supported to ‘age in place’, in the belief that this will also promote quality of life and well-being in later life. There is also a policy focus on enabling older people to remain in their homes for as long as possible. While new technologies clearly have the potential to support independent living in the home for older people, it is less clear whether or not these technologies also promote a wider connection outside of the home. There is an increasing need, therefore, to critically look at the impact that technologies supporting ‘ageing in place’ have on the everyday lives of older people. It is important that the social and ethical implications that these technologies could have for older people are explored from a number of different perspectives, including those of older people, designers, social scientists and computing scientists.

This project funded social gerontology lecturer Katie Brittain to conduct a year-long discipline hop in the Digital Interaction Group in Culture Lab, and use this to forge new collaborations and build national and international links with experts in the design and development of emerging technologies for older people.

Date: Sept 2011 – Aug 2012

Funding: EPSRC: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. £81,484

Researchers: Katie Brittain – Institute of Health & Society (PI), Patrick Olivier.