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Healthy Ageing

Demographic change and ageing populations are bringing new challenges - and opportunities - to countries around the world. The World Health Organisation note that Europe‘s population is forecast to increase its proportion of people aged 65 and over from 14% in 2010 to 25% in 2050; other world regions are also finding that more people living longer.

This rapid change means we need to find ways of ageing well and promoting wellbeing in later years. The arts and humanities have a part to play here recognising:

  • the value of the arts to wellbeing
  • the quality of life and social participation
  • how design needs to meet the changing needs of people as they age
  • the ethics of care for vulnerable populations
  • the importance of memory and connections in ageing communities.

Case study

Tangible Memories: Communities in Care

Elderly woman with two carers
Image from the film 'Tangible memories'.

This project explored how connections can be built in ageing communities, looking at care homes as a unique environment that brings together older people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. How can a sense of community be built in such settings to promote wellbeing, social trust and inclusiveness amongst residents?

Tangible Memories recognised the importance of objects - which might have been lost, given away or sold as a consequence of moving to the care home - to memories and personal stories, and sought to work with residents and artists to create new proxy objects that the recipient would have control over. Visit 'Tangible Memories' project website to read more.

Research impact and achievements:

  • In-depth training of care home staff in the Bristol area on improving quality of life for residents. A further 2,500 care staff have been trained using the methods developed through this project through workshops and an online Active Care Forum.
  • The PI for this project, Helen Manchester of Bristol University, was invited to sit on the Bristol Ageing Better consortium that aims to improve quality of life for older people.
  • Feedback from participants has been positive, such as one care home resident who noted that “taking part in the project has given me a new lease of life and has helped restore my confidence”.

How has AHRC supported research in healthy ageing?

The AHRC has supported a range of research projects in this area across open and strategic calls. The first significant investment was the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) programme, an eight year interdisciplinary initiative led by ESRC that AHRC collaborated on. NDA ran between 2007 and 2014 and became the largest and most ambitious research programme on ageing ever run in the UK. Read more arts and humanities case studies on the NDA website.

Between 2011 and 2018, 25 projects related to healthy ageing were supported by AHRC, amounting to over £3.1M of research investment in this area.

For some more examples of research we have supported, you can read a longer feature on How a HUG can help people with dementia or visit our cross-council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing initiative page.


Associated image copyright: Garry Knight on Flickr by CC 2.0.