A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has been awarded £1.6m of funding to improve access to online resources for older people in a bid to boost health.
The three-year project, led by the University of Stirling’s Professor Catherine Hennessy and supported by Professor Richard Haynes and Professor Anna Whittaker, will bring together academics from three of the University’s faculties – Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities and Health Sciences and Sport – as well as experts from the University of Plymouth.
They will examine how digital resources can be designed and delivered to provide and engage older people in structured activity programmes and improve health and wellbeing.
Professor of Ageing, University of Stirling
COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the need to be able to deliver programmes for older people in a socially distanced world, while it has also highlighted the need to urgently address so-called 'digital divides' – inequalities in access to digital connectivity through age, economic disadvantage and functional limitations.
Professor Hennessy said: “Developing and strengthening older people's links with community, resources and meaningful activities is a key part of supporting healthy ageing and reducing health inequalities in later life.
“Through this research, we want to understand the barriers older people face in accessing digital resources, what role technology can play in enhancing their participation in digitally-delivered health promotion activities, and what impact being able to be digitally-connected has on health, wellbeing and relationships.
“COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the need to be able to deliver programmes for older people in a socially distanced world, while it has also highlighted the need to urgently address so-called 'digital divides' – inequalities in access to digital connectivity through age, economic disadvantage and functional limitations. This programme will stimulate developments which help to tackle and reduce these issues.”
In partnership with charitable trust Active Stirling, Sports Heritage Scotland, UK Active, Sporting Heritage and the charity Generations Working Together, the researchers will work with older people and younger participants living in the community, as well as residents from 12 care homes in Scotland and England. Over the course of the project, the research team will record the different groups’ experiences of digital resources and assistive technologies and will then share their findings with business partners – small to medium-sized enterprises – to develop new technologies, product ideas and test design concepts.
The project has been awarded funding through the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI’s) healthy ageing challenge, part of the Social, Behavioural and Design Research Programme.
‘Connectivity and Digital Design for Promoting Health and Well-being Across Generations, Places and Spaces’ will begin in March 2021.