Advanced Care Research Centre

Understanding The Person In Context

We will use innovative social science research methods to understand how people plan for or manage the challenges posed by changes in physical and mental function as they age and in the context of social support, personal financial circumstance, community resources and statutory services.

What are our intentions?

An understanding of the circumstances, needs and priorities of people in later life in the context of families and communities is pivotal for ACRC research. This work package will ensure that we keep the person in later life at the heart of all research, as well as delivering new academic insights and contribution to social theory. There will be direct impact in relation to the focus of other research work packages. The findings will be of direct value to many other stakeholders, for example by better understanding decision-making at times of transition between stages of later life.

Why is this important?

Almost all of us will be carers and cared for at different times of our lives, but we need to understand better how individuals and their families experience later life and the care associated with it. Highlighting an approach to care that promotes continuing social participation and active citizenship, our ambition is to help maintain quality of life and sense of self for the individual as they experience different stages of later life, ensuring we understand the context and the physical, social and economic environments that are needed to provide this. ACRC funding provides a near-unique opportunity to generate an understanding of the experience of transitions and care in later life.

How will we achieve this?

This work package is based in a set of complementary studies described below. The research will apply social science research methods and follow a carefully selected group of participants over three years, with a possibility of extending to five years. Using a variety of methods, we will generate one data set for the whole work package to facilitate cross-study comparison and analysis. We will take a community case study approach, identifying 9 or 10 geographically and socioeconomically diverse communities in Scotland and England. Within each community, we will seek participants aged 50 and upwards with varying individual circumstances and will work to compare their experience and perceptions. Data collection will use co-creative and participatory approaches to ensure that we actively involve people in later life, their care partners and professionals.

The five underlying studies reflect different ways of focusing on experience of later life:

  • Personal Projects: By examining what people are seeking to achieve in their lives (big or small), we can better understand what contributes to meaningful quality of life and, by exploring how the wider environment helps or hinders these projects, we can understand how better to support people to maintain their sense of self and purpose.
  • Ageing in Place Successfully: will explore how people in later life negotiate the complexity of health and social care provision within, and outside, of their home, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of how best to achieve successful ageing in place.
  • Understanding Care Transitions: will take a lifecourse approach to personal projects, to explore change over time, including: how societal mandates (e.g. protecting the vulnerable) enable and disable the individual, and the consequences of choices made for individual autonomy and sense of self; how mutual responsibilities are negotiated over time; and how participants might flourish, while managing risk in the face of an intrinsically uncertain environment.
  • Understanding Informal Care Networks: will develop rich understandings of how value in informal later life care is understood and constructed and how these could map into emerging personal socio-ecologies and to understand how data-driven technologies may support healthier, informal networks. 
  • Images of Care: will capture, challenge, and change perspectives around ageing and care through images submitted and narrated by members of the general public, selected communities and relevant stakeholders.


Meet the Team: Understanding the Person in Context