Grey and Pleasant Land? Major new study on ageing in rural Britain
Academics from Swansea University’s School of Human Sciences are taking part in a novel interdisciplinary research project to find out what life in rural communities is like for Britain’s ageing population.
The project is led by the University of Plymouth, which together with its research bid partners Bournemouth University, University of the West of England, Cardiff University, and Swansea University, has been awarded £1.1million to investigate how older people living in rural South West England and Wales interact with their local community, and what social and economic issues are important to them.
The three-year study, entitled Grey and Pleasant Land?: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Connectivity of Older People in Rural Civic Society, which begins in December 2008, is one of a number funded under the ‘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 specifically 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.
The study will focus on the quality of life of older people in rural areas by analysing the extent of their involvement in their communities, leisure patterns and cultural interests, the barriers and opportunities for participation that they experience and their attitudes to the countryside as a social, cultural and environmental space.
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.
Examples of some of the innovative methods being used to engage older rural people in the project and to communicate their experiences of rural living include a film, a museum exhibition, an art-based book, interactive websites and videoconferences and other events in which older people in rural areas in the UK and other countries discuss issues relevant to their quality of life.
It is hoped that the project will ensure that the concerns important to older people living in rural settings receive attention that reflects their growing numbers and that the findings can form the basis for recommendations that can benefit older people living in rural communities nationally and beyond.
For more information about Swansea University’s School of Human Sciences follow this link.