ART of Healthy Ageing Network
Dr Stella Arakelyan, Research Fellow at the ACRC, shares her reflections and experience of attending the ART of Healthy Ageing Network ECR Workshop in Manchester, 2023
Blog post on ‘Effective Interdisciplinary Collaboration’ at the ART of Healthy Ageing Network ECR Workshop, 2023
People are living longer and this will continue in the coming decades. Many older people are enjoying healthy lives, but a substantial proportion is vulnerable to subtle changes in their circumstances with a resultant rapid deterioration in their health and independence. Fostering healthy ageing and improving the lives of older people and their households irrespective of their vulnerability state is high on the UK’s and international agenda. Healthy ageing is commonly defined as a process of sustaining functional ability to enable wellbeing in older age. At the Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) we are committed to transforming care in later life to ensure that care is person-centred and supports the independence and quality‐of‐life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments.
Working towards this grand vision and making a meaningful contribution to the healthy ageing agenda requires effective interdisciplinary collaboration. Yet strategic considerations around who to collaborate with and how to get people engaged in your research do not come naturally to early career researchers (ECRs) like myself. Earlier in July, I had an opportunity to participate in the ART of Healthy Ageing Network workshop dedicated to effective collaboration, with participant ECRs coming across diverse disciplines including cell biology, sports science, epidemiology, implementation science. The workshop aimed to catalyse interdisciplinary collaboration and support the development of ECRs.
Attending my first ART of Healthy Ageing Network event was a fantastic experience. I had a chance to learn about fascinating research which my colleagues are working on, from finding the markers of ageing, to pilot testing of new smartphone apps aiming to promote socially active and independent living among older people. We had acute care clinicians and geriatricians among us who were interested in implementation research. As a health services researcher with a medical background whose research focuses on improving pathways of care for people with multimorbidity and/or frailty, I was intrigued to learn more about early findings of clinical trails targeted at sarcopenia (age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and strength) in older frail people.
New learning on ingredients of successful interdisciplinary collaboration could not have been more timely. Key takeaways could be captured by 4Ps: (i) PURPOSE - having a clear understanding on your WHY; (ii) PRODUCT - WHAT are you aiming for; (iii) PEOPLE - complementary skills, shared purpose and values; (iv) PROCESS - agreement on HOW you will work together. We also discussed the importance of trust and creating an environment where everyone would feel safe to share novel ideas openly, be able to give candid feedback, openly admit mistakes, take risks and able to ask for support. We talked in detail about the notion of psychological safety defined by the Centre for Creative Leadership as ‘the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes’.
The ART of Healthy Ageing Network workshop created a positive, reflective and collaborative environment where ECRs had a chance to put the ingredients of successful interdisciplinary collaboration into practice and have productive discussions around psychological safety in their current workplace. The enthusiasm I felt from all ECRs is a testament that the event was a success, and I look forward to future ART of Healthy Ageing Network events and opportunities for collaborating with outstanding ECRs across the UK who are committed to making the UK a better place to live and grow older.