Negotiating safety and vulnerability in everyday life: perspectives of UK older people from participative research



Sherwood-Johnson F, Mackay K & Greasley-Adams C (2022) Negotiating safety and vulnerability in everyday life: perspectives of UK older people from participative research. European Journal of Social Work, 25 (3), pp. 485-496.

This article reports on a participative study that began to explore what safety and vulnerability mean to older people and the resources they draw on to keep themselves safe. The methodology was designed in collaboration with an independent advocacy organisation and ten of its older members, who were also research participants. It involved focus groups and repeated visits to five participants to discuss their daily lives. The findings indicate that "safety" and "vulnerability" have subjective, experiential dimensions, which are situated in particular relationships, environments and experiences over time. Participants reported drawing on their own strengths and the strengths of others in their families, communities and local services to achieve an acceptable level of felt safety for themselves. However, this sense of safety could not be disentangled from, nor always prioritised over, wider aspects of living well including maintaining reciprocal relationships, preserving self-identity, and contributing to the well-being of families and other social groups of which they felt themselves a part. Implications are considered in light of UK and wider European policy aspirations to support both autonomy and safety: specifically, the need to foster supportive communities, to offer low-level support and to pay attention to what safety means to each individual.

Safety; vulnerability; protection; participation; older people

European Journal of Social Work: Volume 25, Issue 3

FundersThe Sir Halley Stewart Trust
Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online01/03/2021
Date accepted by journal01/03/2021

People (2)


Dr Kathryn Mackay
Dr Kathryn Mackay

Lecturer, Social Work

Dr Fiona Sherwood-Johnson
Dr Fiona Sherwood-Johnson

Lecturer, Social Work