Creating age-friendly communities: co-production and community involvement


A conversation with the ‘Co-creating age-friendly social housing’ and ‘Developing age-friendly communities Salford’ project teams, facilitated by Matthew Winn, National Advisor on Community Health at NHS England.

Read a summary of the two projects below, and scroll down to watch the session recording.

In 2021, DMT made a call for proposals from researchers working in partnership with community organisations on the topic of developing homes and communities suitable for older people. We are joined in this session by the teams from two of the successful award-holders: Dr Mark Hammond of Manchester Metropolitan University, Professor Andrew Clark of the University of Salford and their community collaborators.


Age-friendly communities are made with co-production

Older people living in the community often need more support and their living environments do not always meet their needs as well as they could. This can leave people feeling isolated, marginalised or excluded which affects their quality of later life. The Dunhill Medical Trust funded two projects to put the voice of older people at the heart of exploring ways to build age-friendly communities.

The first sees Professor Andrew Clark, and his team at the University of Salford, exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the living environments and social connections of older people in different neighbourhoods in Salford. Dr Mark Hammond leads the second who, with his team from the Manchester School of Architecture, is investigating naturally occurring retirement communities.

“Our goal is to make a difference for older people, and the people who support them, one neighbourhood at a time” Professor Andrew Clark, University of Salford

Beyond the pandemic: developing age-friendly communities in Salford

Our goal is to make a difference for older people, and the people who support them, one neighbourhood at a time. We’re giving older people in Salford an opportunity to share what they think is important when making their homes and community more accessible and comfortable. We especially want to learn from what older people experienced through the pandemic when community life looked very different.

Using a series of community workshops, we co-designed our project with older people. We want their aims and hopes to be an integral part of what we research. We have also collected data from 11 ageing charities and organisations and are beginning to build a clearer picture of how the pandemic affected older people living within the community. We’re now getting out and about to interview older people from multiple neighbourhoods in Salford. Using photos and film to bring their experiences to life, we are aiming to create a clearer picture still on what it’s like to live in Salford neighbourhoods from their point of view.

Next, we’ll use co-production again to develop recommendations for how to build and support age-friendly communities in Salford. This will see a huge number of important voices come to the table, such as older people and their carers, voluntary organisations, service providers, charities and universities. We believe that a truly collaborative approach is the best way to carry out this research, enabling us to overcome challenges so that more people can live safely and comfortably with the community into their later years.

Co-creating age-friendly social housing in Manchester

“Our project is taking a detailed look at Hopton Court, a spontaneously occurring retirement community near Manchester University” Dr Mark Hammond, Manchester School of Architecture

Retirement communities can form spontaneously rather than being deliberately planned for and built. However, these communities receive no funding for the extra care, housing support or accessibility upgrades the residents might need. Without additional support, it’s harder for residents to age happily and comfortably in these pop-up ‘retirement homes’.

Our project is taking a detailed look at Hopton Court, a spontaneously occurring retirement community near the Manchester Metropolitan University. Hopton Court is a 9-story tower block that was not designed or built with older people in mind despite the majority of the people now living there being over 50. The tenants living there are a proactive community and are working with the university to advocate for housing improvements. Tenants and university researchers together created a model for how spontaneously occurring retirement communities establish and form.

We’re now taking this model forward and want to share it with stakeholders including housing providers, integrated services, academics and healthcare professionals. We’re particularly interested in helping social housing providers to better collaborate with older people. Both sides of the table want to improve the experience of ageing in social housing but it’s not always easy to facilitate the conversation.

We’re bringing Hopton Court tenants and social housing providers together. Part of our work is making these conversations more comfortable and productive, helping to break any barriers that might arise. Older people’s voices can often be lost in a formal building consultation process so we’re designing more approachable ways for each side to work together. For example, more casual conversations where it’s easier for tenants to speak up, and of course there is tea and cake!

The output of this work will be a practical guide for housing providers showing them how they can collaborate more with older communities and in more approachable ways.


Watch the recording

If you cannot see the embedded video below, then you can watch the recording on YouTube at this link.

Meet the speakers

Matthew Winn

Matthew Winn is the Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust and has led the organisation since 2007. Previously he worked in London in roles in acute care, local government and Primary Care Trusts.

He is also the Director for Community Health and Senior Responsible Officer for the Ageing Well programme with NHS England/NHS Improvement. He has an MSc in public policy and public management, focusing on how organisations can work together effectively.

Professor Andrew Clark

Andrew leads the 'Developing Age-Friendly Communities in a post-pandemic world’ project. He is a social scientist and Professor in the School of Health & Society at the University of Salford. Andrew has been undertaking research and evaluation projects for over 20 years, often working in partnership with older people, stakeholders and other beneficiaries. His work mainly focuses on applying innovative and participative social science methods to better understand everyday experiences of environments and communities of place for different groups, including older people, individuals living with dementia, and formal and informal carers.

Bernadette Elder, CEO Inspiring Communities Together

Bernadette is the Voluntary Sector partner on the 'Developing Age-Friendly Communities in a post-pandemic world’ project.

Bernadette has extensive experience of working with communities, supporting individuals to come together to generate positive actions to neighbourhood priorities. This work has involved working with communities to enable them to use their own knowledge and skills to:
• Establish community organisations
• Co-design and deliver community services
• Create community-led neighbourhood action plans
• Develop and deliver programmes of community learning

She is now the CEO of the charity Inspiring Communities Together, which has a focus on employing local people and delivering a programme of work across the life-course of start well, live well and age well.

Eve Blezard

Eve is an early career researcher passionate about improving local communities' sustainability through combined research and practice. Eve’s Doctoral research was entitled: ‘Change, Loss, and Community: Residents’ narratives of life on a social housing estate.’ which explored the significance of community for residents on a regenerated housing estate. Eve previously worked as a Research Assistant on an Advance HE ‘Inclusive structures driving transformational change’ project with the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Centre at the University of Salford. She is presently working as a Research Fellow at Salford University. Eve has a social housing practice background and spent over ten years working in the sector.

Dr Mark Hammond

Dr Mark Hammond is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Architecture (MSA), Manchester Metropolitan University. His research focuses on the intersections between architecture and urban ageing within the home, community and city, with a specific interest in housing inequality and spatial justice. He has recently completed a two-year secondment at the Greater Manchester (GM) Combined Authority, where he worked with the GM Ageing Hub to develop research-engaged policy and strategy around urban ageing. Mark is currently principal investigation on the 'Co-creating Age-Friendly Social Housing' project, a three-year design-research programme investigating the how older people and social housing providers can collaborate to develop innovative housing and community models. Mark is Deputy Programme Lead of the Master of Architecture course at MSA, where he also teaches design studio.

Niamh Kavanagh

Niamh is a Research Associate on the ‘Co-Creating Age-Friendly Social Housing’ project that aims to develop and explore place-based age-friendly initiatives to improve the experiences of ageing in place in social housing. She has also worked on other ageing projects relating to urban regeneration, and has experience of working collaboratively alongside both community and regeneration stakeholders, and residents, to understand how more age-friendly principles can be incorporated into urban redevelopment projects.

Niamh completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Manchester (UoM) in July 2022, which explored working-class experiences of urban displacement in Salford. Her research interests span the urban, including redevelopment/gentrification, displacement, materiality, social housing, demolition, focusing on class and social injustices for marginalised groups, through biographical perspectives. She has also taught on both theoretical and research methods-based modules in Sociology and has delivered guest lectures at both University of Manchester and University of Salford. Niamh is a member of the Manchester Urban Ageing Research Group (MUARG) and has links to the Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives at the University of Manchester.

Shakira Evans

Shakira currently works at One Manchester Housing Association, where a lot of her work is focused around elders and positive ageing. She is currently working closely with residents living in a tower block, which has over time developed into a ‘Naturally Occurring Retirement Community’.

A qualified Youth and Community worker with an undergraduate degree in Clinical Psychology, much of her work over the last 10 years has involved working at a grass-roots level in and around communities and Community Centres, with people aged 6 to 90 years old.

Passionate about the role of food and music in bringing people together, Shakira is particularly interested in promoting the value of intergenerational spaces and learning and loves working with people: each day brings something different.

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