The University of Brighton and Age UK Brighton & Hove have been collaborating on a programme of participatory research since 2007.

We have worked with older people as co-researchers, most recently focusing on experiences of wellbeing and what this means to older people.

Research at Age UK Brighton & HoveWith funding from the ESRC we have been working with practitioners from statutory and voluntary services as well as with older people, to produce learning resources to increase awareness of the factors that contribute to wellbeing in later life, and to develop good practice in older people's participation.

The learning resources draw on collaborative research we carried out with a team of older co-researchers. It was designed to enable older people to talk in their own terms about what well-being means to them, and how it is produced.

So the resources are based not only on what we found out about older people and wellbeing, but what we learnt from working with older people and with practitioners to generate and apply knowledge for policy and practice.

The resources comprise a film and accompanying handbook. We worked with a professional production company to create scripted scenarios based on interviews.

In the film these are acted to highlight key points identified by our interviewees and to illustrate how social care workers might help people to think through some of the challenges they face as they grow older.

In these learning resources we invite you to think about what person-centred care means in practice.

They're designed to help anyone who works with older people to maximize well-being in old age.

You can watch the film online and download the handbook for use in presentations or training events.

The handbook accompanies the film and provides more detailed explanations of the issues we explore through acted scenarios. It also lists questions that you can use to reflect more on these issues and suggests where you can go for more information.

Focus of our work

We are focusing on three different contexts in which older people can be actively involved in decision making:

1. Living options

How can older people be involved in determining the range of options available, and how might they be involved in decisions about day-to-day living where they live?

This encompasses residential care, but also includes other types of housing options – what would they look like, how could older people explore with confidence what the options are?

We are exploring how individual older people might be enabled to have their say about their personal preferences, and, collectively, how older people can be involved in planning, design and development.

2. Support planning and assessment

How can older people be supported in making decisions in what are often difficult situations, where the decisions are ones they would prefer not to make?

How can we develop the psychological and social concepts and tools to facilitate participative discussion, recognising the need to understand the contexts in which decisions are being made and the importance of personal networks and relationships?

3. Carers / caring relationships

How can both older people and those who care for them be involved in decision-making, and how might workers support this?

Good caring relationships are important for older people's wellbeing and we know that many older people are either/both ambivalent about receiving care and/or find it difficult to ask for and receive care.

In the case of many older people who live with partners, it can be difficult to distinguish people as care givers or care receivers. We are exploring the need for attentiveness to the particularities of caring relationships in order to support appropriate involvement of care givers and care receivers.

Our first project ‘Cheers!?’ was about older people and alcohol.

- Download Cheers!? Report 

Our team of older co-researchers have produced a booklet for other older people based on this work:

- Download 'As Time Goes By'


You can also download the well-being research report:




Download: Older, people, well-being & participation handbook



Click here to watch the films



The project is led by Professor Marian Barnes and Dr Lizzie Ward from the School of Applied Social Science and Dr Beatrice Gahagan, Senior Manager, Age UK Brighton & Hove.

Other publications based on this work:

Barnes, M., Taylor, D. and Ward, L. (in press) 'Being well enough in old age' Critical Social Policy

Ward, L. and Gahagan, B. (2012) 'Empowering Engagement? Involving older people in research' in M. Barnes and P. Cotterell (eds) Critical Perspectives on User Involvement. Bristol; Policy Press.

Ward, L. and Gahagan, B. (2010) 'Crossing the Divide between Theory and Practice: research and an Ethic of Care'. Ethics and Social Welfare 4 (2) 210 - 216.


If you would like to find out more about our work, please get in touch with Lizzie Ward,




School of Applied Social Science

Visit the School of Applied Social Science website