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Engaging older people to explore the age-friendliness of a rural community in Northern England: A photo-elicitation study

Harrison, Annie, Hall, Mel ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5657-0278, Money, Annemarie, Mueller, Julia, Waterson, Hannah and Verma, Arpana (2021) Engaging older people to explore the age-friendliness of a rural community in Northern England: A photo-elicitation study. Journal of Aging Studies, 58. p. 100936. ISSN 0890-4065

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Abstract

An ageing society brings with it increased health costs due to the prevalence of long term conditions increasing with age. It is therefore vital to support good health in older people, both to improve their quality of life and to reduce the financial implications of an ageing society. Isolation and loneliness can put people at risk of dying early, and increasing opportunities for social interaction and engagement could mitigate some of the health effects of ageing. However, this requires society to create the conditions that enable older people to participate fully. The World Health Organization's Age-Friendly Cities programme has identified factors that make urban areas Age-Friendly, but research shows that older rural dwellers have unique unmet needs preventing full engagement in their communities. This article describes a pilot project which adapted photo-elicitation to explore the age-friendliness of a rural area in Calderdale, Northern England. It shows that photo-elicitation is a successful method for identifying what older people think is important in making their community age-friendly and it reveals differences between ageing in a city and in a rural setting. This rich data can be used to inform the development of policy in rural areas which is more closely aligned to the needs, preferences and interests of the growing population of older residents. The project also demonstrates the engagement potential of this methodology. Participants continued as co-researchers, learning new skills and taking responsibility for a variety of dissemination activities such as photographic exhibitions, a public report and presentations. This suggests that adapted photo-elicitation is a useful tool for engaging older people in research.

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