Exit Menu

Study into services gives voice to older people

A report about providing services for older people based on an in-depth study by Brunel University London has become a standard text within the industry.

The Coming of Age report by think-tank Demos was put together following insights from Fiction and the Cultural Mediation of Ageing, an in-depth study led by Professor of English Philip Tew.

The 33-month study, funded by Research Councils UK, drew out older people’s true feelings about their ageing through diary entries. These were compared with similar requests in 1992 and 2006 and with responses from eight reading groups of older volunteers set up by the University of the Third Age.

The combination of perspectives revealed the gap between the personal, individual experience of aging and dominant stereotypes of “old” people. Replies led the team to question assumptions such as that older people are disproportionately concerned with crime and more liable to feel isolated and lonely.

Readers found an absence of older characters in literature and films yet many stereotypes of passive dependency and an inability to manage.

The study’s approach to giving voice to older people met with an enthusiastic response from decision makers, which turned to concrete impacts on policy. For example, all major UK political parties agreed to end unnecessary universal benefits to balance the books and foster a sense of intergenerational justice.

The report spotlighted the kinds of assumptions and prejudices that have commonly circulated in society, in the media and among decision-makers. Its findings have continued to impact on ideas and decisions through conference debates, local and national policy reviews, team briefings and media coverage.

Such was its impact that the Centre for Policy on Ageing endorsed Fiction and the Cultural Mediation of Ageingfor the nomination of the European Social Research Council’s Celebrating Impact Prize in the category of Outstanding Impact in Public Policy.