Generating Older Active Lives Digitally (GOALD)
This project, led by the University of Stirling in collaboration with the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Health Technology, aims to improve access to online resources for older people in a bid to enhance lifecourse health and well-being.
About the project
The project will examine how digital health resources can be designed using intergenerational co-production with older and younger people. The feasibility and impact of delivering these digital products to engage older people in structured activity programmes in the areas of physical activity and sports and leisure reminiscence will be investigated.
This 3-year research programme aims to examine how we can design, test, deliver and evaluate digital resources to facilitate structured activity programmes for ‘health connectivity’ in older age. Through examining the feasibility and impact of a digital approach to two existing initiatives, intergenerational physical activity (IGPA) and sports-based intergenerational reminiscence (SBIR), the research will demonstrate the potential for development of related products and services to enhance support for health in later life.
Developing and strengthening older people’s ‘connectivities’ – their links with community, resources and meaningful activities – is a key part of supporting healthy ageing and reducing health inequalities in later life. Social connectivity and increasingly, digital connectivity, are pillars of what we here term ‘health connectivity’, or an individual’s links to supports for health and well-being. Both IGPA and SBIR are designed to deliver activities in ways which foster social connectivity for participants within and between generations, increasing mutual understanding and empathy.
The impact of social connectivity on older people’s health behaviours and health outcomes is well established, as is risk of reduced social connectivity in later life due to factors such as area deprivation and conditions like visual, hearing and cognitive impairment. Far less is known about the most effective ways to maintain and improve connectedness and so optimise those benefits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the need to be able to deliver programmes which support older people’s social connectivity such as IGPA and SBIR effectively in a socially distanced world, but digital connectivity-connectedness through digital technology – was already of growing importance to older people in enabling them to access community, information and other resources in addition to eHealth applications and online healthcare services. COVID-19 has also brought into stark relief the need to urgently address so called ‘digital divides’, inequalities in access to digital connectivity through age, economic disadvantage and functional limitations, and this programme will stimulate developments which help to reduce such inequalities.
The research programme, to be delivered by an interdisciplinary team of researchers based at the Universities of Plymouth and Stirling, consists of six 6-month inter-linked and co-dependant work packages (WPs) and will employ an innovative intergenerational co-production approach throughout. In WP1, information sharing mechanisms will be developed, a consultative Reference Group constituted, reviews and interviews with intergenerational programming providers to inform subsequent WPs conducted, and outcome measures developed for a pre- and post- testing of IGPA and SBIR participants. In WP2 community dwelling older people and younger participants in Cornwall (64) and Scotland (32) and 48 residents from 12 care homes (16 Stirling/32 Cornwall) will be recruited via partner organisations and form 20 researcher-supported intergenerational co-production groups (ICGs) for WP3.
Following baseline outcome assessments, each ICG will meet bi-weekly for 6 months to share experiences of sport and physical activity and explore and test assistive technologies for either IGPA or SBIR. Recording of meetings and researcher observations will be thematically analysed to document those processes and identify themes around user needs and product ideas. In WP4 findings will be shared and the WP team will work with SME business partners to innovate new technologies to support IGPA and SBIR, with SMEs design concepts tested by the ICGs to inform development of prototypes tested by the ICGs in WP5, ending with post-test outcome assessments. Project-spanning implementation of the impact, knowledge exchange and communications strategy, coordination across interlinked empirical WPs, and dissemination activities are all included within WP6.