A Social Innovation for Healthy and Active Ageing

A bearded man cyclingThe University of Sheffield is one of the partners of the EU-funded Innovage programme, a 3-year project to promote active and healthy ageing across Europe. The Public Health section at ScHARR is collaborating with partners from Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Newcastle to develop an intergenerational innovation which aims to reduce the number of people in Europe who reach old age with problematic obesity. The project uses an exciting hybrid of social science and participatory design methodologies, with the various approaches and findings all influencing each other.

One strand of the project has involved Melanie Rimmer and Sheila Kennedy from ScHARR with Professor Stuart Parker of the University of Newcastle surveying the research literature on intergenerational interventions for obesity: they found that it almost exclusively focused on parent-to-child effects and that very little research has been carried out involving grandparents.  Also, the research was concerned with the influence on the child’s weight, not the grandparent’s.

This means that the social innovation the team are designing is truly novel, which is very exciting. But it means that the team cannot use existing research about what works or doesn’t work, but must rely on research evidence from slightly different populations, such as parents and children rather than grandparents and grandchildren.

Another strand of the project involves in-depth interviews with older people to identify the factors which help them to be more physically active, and the barriers which prevent them. This is also being carried out at ScHARR by Professor Paul Bissell and Dr Georgina Gowans.

Based at Sheffield Hallam University, Professor Andy Dearden, Heath Reed, Sinead O’Brien and Dr Ben Heller are engaging members of the public in a series of user-centred healthcare design workshops to guide the development of a novel social innovation. The innovation will be designed to encourage and enable people to be more physically active as they age, taking advantage of links and interactions between different generations. The designers are working alongside Professor Kate Gerrish and Professor Sue Mawson from the University of Sheffield to consider the implementation, scale up and spread of the innovation as part of its development.

Photo by Kamyar Adl under a Creative Commons License

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