The focus for the Reimagine Ageing Network is centred around the ideal view of ageing: to think about how we would like to age and develop solutions, through research, to challenge the perceptions, narratives and the experience of ageing.
By 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over, but while the rising age of our population should be celebrated, inequalities mean it is experienced differently by each one of us. In addition, the increasing number of older adults presents challenges to developing technologies, systems and policies that place the experience of older adults at the heart of design and decision making.
As a research network we want to cultivate an interdisciplinary, collaborative research agenda between academics and clinicians from all faculties of the University. Our network is supported by Leeds City Council, Leeds Public Health, and leading local and national third sector organisations.
Together we can shape our research strategy, and co-create novel, imaginative responses to the global challenge of successful ageing. Ultimately this provides a clear route for impact, and an opportunity for implementing change across our city. Together, we can Reimagine Ageing, through transforming research.
To do this we will:
- Bring together researchers from different disciplines across Yorkshire, the UK and beyond to develop inter/multi/transdisciplinary research grants to advance knowledge of ‘ageing well’.
- Develop networking events where researchers, healthcare professionals, community members, policymakers, and other partners can share knowledge, driving translation of research to create impactful activity at a local and national level.
- Support community participation to inform research, co-creating research methods, approaches and research questions.
- Facilitate the development of the next generation of researchers through direct support and mentorship.
Our network has three core themes, which are aligned to Leeds City Council’s Age-Friendly Leeds Strategy:
Homes, community spaces, and transport
Work in this theme explores ways to ensure personal spaces (eg homes) and civic spaces (eg parks, and town centres) are inclusive and accessible for older people. To support independence in local communities, our research ensures older people are supported and motivated to choose a mode that is most appropriate for their journey. We also look to ensure transport, housing and community spaces and events are affordable, accessible and safe for everyone.
Inclusive approaches to promote independence, health, and wellbeing
Work in this theme strives to promote positive ageing in ways which are meaningful to our local community. We debate narratives and perceptions of ageing, critiquing the use of language and images of what it means to be an older person.
Our members are developing and evaluating new and innovative ways to promote successful ageing with a focus on active, independent living, reducing loneliness and social isolation, and better understanding of nutritional strategies to promote cognitive function and disease management and prevention. Much of this work makes use of wearables, and digital and/or assistive technology. The network is dedicated to better understand how to support engagement in creative activity, and how this supports wellbeing.
Given the prevalence of such, our members often work with individuals/groups living with (multiple) long-term conditions, and a further strength is our work which takes place in care homes.
In this theme our work goes from cell to society. We aim to bring together scientists working on fundamental and mechanistic aspects of ageing together with those who are looking for innovative ways to support ageing well at a person or population level, or through changes in service delivery.
Education, employment, and policy making
Our long-term aim is for the network to act as a coordinating body for a portfolio of educational activity within the University and across sectors. We hope to work across the network, and with our advisory board to develop opportunities (microcredits and CPD opportunities) to ensure older people can make it back into work, stay in work, and explore career changes. In addition, we want to develop means and processes for the University and its learners to engage in with our local community through their education.
Big data (huge data sets that can be managed to identify patterns and trends) is the key to integration and interaction in interdisciplinary research which can help reveal the evolution of life in ageing, to reforming social structures to cope with the changes we see in population numbers and demographic characteristics.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is considered a major ally in longevity research. AI can learn from existing data how to predict and model properties and interactions, revealing important knowledge about complex processes. For example, AI technologies, can integrate biological, psychological, mental, physical, and social health-related (big) data that can be used to establish diagnoses, prognoses, treatment options and costs. It can also serve to inform the individual about their situation and adapt its output to provide a more personalised response that has the potential to impact the lives of older people in a variety of contexts.
As researchers, we aim to partner with community stakeholders (individuals, and organisations) to form equitable partnerships to cocreate the research experience. This ensures we develop culturally and logistically appropriate research, can recruit participants to projects, drive forward the accumulation of partnership collaboration, subsequently increasing the quality of outputs and outcomes over time.
Our approach also ensures we sustain project goals during gaps in external funding and beyond funding time frames and should ultimately generate new unanticipated projects and activity. We welcome innovative ways to collaborate with local people and organisations to develop, implement, and evaluate the impact of our work, ensuring mutual learning.