Healthy Ageing Research Director

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Applied Social Science


The contribution of older people to the economy and society, through volunteering, caregiving activities, engagement in formal employment past retirement as well as consumers and entrepreneurs, is considerable. Yet ageing is an opportunity that business and industry have still to realise. The overall aim of the Industrial Strategy is to improve innovation and productivity. In doing so we need to consider the role of older people in making this a reality. It also seeks to improve wellbeing contributing to 5 extra years of healthy independent life by 2035 and to narrow the gap between the richest and poorest.

To achieve this, as Research Director, Professor Judith Phillips will lead and manage a Social, Behavioural and Design Research programme of interdisciplinary research which seeks to provide an evidence base and platform for innovation through a suite of research projects, knowledge exchange activity and capacity building. Older people will be at the heart of this research programme co-producing and working alongside academic, business and industry stakeholders, policy and practice communities to shape, conduct and create impact from the programme. The Research Director will create a vibrant environment for researchers and stakeholders from a wide variety of disciplines and environments where ideas, new and novel thinking and innovation can be explored around inclusive design (e.g. environments, services and product design); behavioural change; organisational change; and the life course (e.g. intergenerational and life transitions). Activities will be drawn together through shared learning across projects in the programme with regular meetings and opportunities to shape the research culture which is interdisciplinary, challenge-driven and impactful. The flagship programme of research will showcase how arts, humanities and social sciences are central contributors to the Industrial Strategy and the Healthy Ageing portfolio.

As a champion of the Healthy Ageing Challenge, Professor Phillips will ensure the project outputs from the programme reach a wide range of end users through strategies for communication, public and business engagement. These will translate the research in the programme to business, public and third sectors drawing on existing influential and new networks and a range of media to ensure impact thus realising the ambitions of the Industrial Strategy. The Research Director will be a key contact point and thought leader for the Healthy Ageing challenge, working with partners from the housing and construction sector, retail, media and third sector amongst others. Examples include Housing LIN, the Association of Convenience Stores and Age UK. Particular emphasis will be on the importance of place and the role of devolved government in realising the research programme and the Healthy Ageing Challenge. Links will be built with other Industrial Strategy challenge areas such as the future of mobility and clean growth as well as challenge fund areas such as the audience of the future and with similar initiatives both across the UK and internationally. The Research Director will also focus on the sustainability of the Healthy Ageing Challenge with an emphasis on building capacity amongst early career and new researchers to ageing, drawing researchers into the programme from underrepresented disciplines and through the development of a roadmap for future research in Healthy Ageing.

Planned Impact

Older people will have increased choice of well designed, creative, aesthetically pleasing and technologically innovative products, services and environments. In turn, this will accommodate their changing needs, promote well-being, combat loneliness and isolation and enable longer, healthier lives. In the short term more positive images of ageing will be visible to business and the public, illustrating ways in which older people contribute to the economy and are custodians of heritage and culture. Co-production approaches will enable older people to understand the business model for successful innovation and how they can contribute in shaping products or services for the future. Medium term outcomes will mean that products, services and environments are much more tailored to and more likely to be adopted by them. Longer term outcomes will deliver on improved wellbeing contributing to 5 extra years of healthy independent life by 2035.

Public sector: Through the planned engagement with the programme, professionals (e.g. architects, builders, transport providers) will develop more in depth understanding of the requirements and needs of older people and carers. This will lead in the medium term to uptake of the programmes outputs facilitating development of better lifecourse approaches e.g. inclusive housing design informed by social science and arts research that is profitable and has a ready market. Social care professionals require a person-centred model of social care that is cost effective. Engagement, involvement and uptake of the programmes outputs will, in the medium term, inform and influence changes in behavior and practices of social care assessors, enabling them to plan better for their local population to significantly reduce the costs of social care (currently £10billion p.a. Age UK, 2019) in the long term.

UK governments will benefit from return on investment through improved wellbeing of their older communities and inward investment and export from business who want to develop evidence-based products and services for older people. Devolved and local government will directly benefit in the short term from the added value of the research as an evidence base and platform for policy making and planning. Policy makers will benefit from exemplar exchanges of how policy can influence affordability and business models linking with initiatives such as City Region & Sector Deals, Strength in Places and other IS missions such as clean growth and mobility.

Private sector: The EU Silver Economy has the potential to expand by approximately 5% per year up to 2025, to 5.7 trillion euro (Technopolis, 2018). In such a growing market direct involvement of the private sector, business and industry (construction, finance, retail industries) will gain from the insights into beneficial design for older people. This will assist their development of wider community environments (eg. high street rejuvenation), products, services and more outcome-based business models leading to improved cost-effective approaches. Similarly, technology innovators and designers want to engage more directly with older people to consider users' concerns and acceptability of technologies (everyday, robotic and smart) to help reduce associated care costs. These impacts could be realized during the life of the programme (stakeholders will start adopting projects) and long term (5- 10 years) when they are adopted at scale.

Civil Society and the Public: In the short, medium and long term, charities, voluntary and community organizations as well as social enterprises that work in the ageing landscape will benefit directly from confidence in the future direction of policy, practice and business in this area through a better evidence base and case study material to champion the needs of older people, particularly more excluded groups and provide policy and practice advice thus realizing the mission of the IS healthy ageing challenge


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