Issue date: 05 November 2008
The University of the West of England is a partner in a novel interdisciplinary research project that aims to find out what life in rural communities is like for Britain's ageing population. The three-year research project will focus on their involvement in communities; leisure patterns and cultural interests; the barriers and opportunities to participation they experience and their attitudes to the countryside as a social, cultural and environmental space.
The £1.1 million project is led by the University of Plymouth, and also includes the Universities of Bournemouth, Cardiff and Swansea as well as UWE. Entitled Grey and Pleasant Land?: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Connectivity of Older People in Rural Civic Society, the three-year study is funded under the national 'New Dynamics of Ageing' programme. This seven-year research initiative, the largest research programme on ageing to date in the UK, is a unique collaboration between five UK Research Councils – ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and AHRC – supporting scientists from across the disciplines to work together on research which will benefit the quality of life of older people.
The rural South West has been chosen as a location for several of the Grey and Pleasant Land project study sites due to its position at the forefront of the demographic 'age wave'. The South West has the most ageing population of all regions in England which is growing faster than the overall UK population, and has the highest life expectancy of all regions. Rural Wales is experiencing similar demographic trends.
From the findings, the research team will be able to offer policy and practical recommendations about how to promote older people in rural areas as community assets rather than as 'problems' and create awareness of the contribution that older people actually make to their communities.
Some of the innovative methods being used to engage older rural people in the project include a film, a museum exhibition, an art-based book, interactive websites and videoconferences where older people in rural areas in the UK and other countries can discuss issues relevant to their quality of life.
Involved in five of the seven work packages are Graham Parkhurst and Charles Musselwhite (School of the Built and Natural Environment); Professor Nigel Curry (Director, Countryside and community Research Unit); Professor Robin Means (Faculty of Health and Life Sciences); Simon Evans (School of Health and Social Care) and Dr Tom Abba and Dr Iain Biggs (School of Creative Arts).