Project which turned local pensioners into researchers wins national award 

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A project which trained older people to be researchers into the future of their city has won a major national award for its groundbreaking work.
MICRA – the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing – won the award for the Researching Age-Friendly Communities Initiative, which was developed in response to some of the challenges facing older people living in cities, notably in relation to issues such as transport, housing, and social isolation.

The researchers – led by Dr. Tine Buffel, and funded through a European Union research grant – decided that the best way to understand how to develop age-friendly communities would be to train people in their 50s through to their 80s to become ‘co-researchers’, who would then conduct interviews in Manchester neighbourhoods amongst older people likely to be experiencing problems connected with social isolation, poverty and poor health.

Throughout the project, a range of public engagement activities were held, including meetings, winter warm events, coffee mornings and neighbourhood social gatherings. The project was presented at these events by the co-researchers to increase awareness and to strengthen links with community organisations.

The project led to direct policy outcomes for Manchester City Council, with older people actively influencing solutions to the challenges experienced by their fellow older residents in the city.

“I’m delighted that Manchester’s age-friendly partnership working with older co-researchers and community organisations has been recognised in this way,” said Chris Phillipson, Professor of Sociology and Social Gerontology at The University of Manchester. “Everyone has gained from having older people as co-researchers working alongside to improve the age-friendliness of their neighbourhood, and to improve the quality of life in low-income areas.”

“We hope this will inspire more researchers to utilise the vast skills, experience and resources of older people in all stages of research, from design and implementation to analysis and dissemination of findings.”

The project was undertaken in conjunction with Manchester City Council, Whalley Range Community Forum, Chorlton Good Neighbours Neighbourhood Care Group, Age Friendly Whalley Range/Chorlton and other local community groups.