GOALD is a 3-year research project examining how we can design, test, deliver and evaluate digital resources to facilitate structured activity programmes for ‘health connectivity’ in older age. GOALD’s focus is on ‘health connectivity’, an individual’s links to supports for health and well-being. Health connectivity can be developed and strengthened through products, services and activities which build and enhance social and digital connectivity.
Research has demonstrated the impact of social connectivity on older people’s health behaviours and health and the risks of reduced social connectivity in later life. Far less is known about the most effective ways to maintain and improve social connectedness and so optimise those benefits. Digital connectivity – connectedness through digital technology – was increasingly important pre-pandemic in enabling access to community, information and other resources in addition to eHealth applications and online healthcare services. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted importance for effective digital delivery of programmes which support older people’s social connectivity. The pandemic has also made more visible pre-existing so called ‘digital divides’, inequalities in access to digital connectivity through age, economic disadvantage and functional limitations. GOALD will stimulate developments which help to reduce such inequalities.
Led by Principal Investigator Professor Catherine Hennessy, GOALD researchers based at the Universities of Stirling: Dr Peter Coffee, Dr Alison Dawson, Professor Richard Haynes, Dr Gregory Mannion, Dr John Ritchie, Dr Gemma Ryde, Dr Simone Tomaz, Dr Karen Watchman, Professor Anna Whittaker, and Annabel Young, and based at Plymouth: Professor Ray Jones MBE, Professor Katharine Willis, Professor Arunangsu Chatterjee, Dr Alison Warren, Dr Tanja Križaj, Dr Swen Gaudl, Dr Alejandro Veliz Reyes, Professor Sheena Asthana, Dr Hannah Bradwell, Katie Edwards, Rose Wilmot, Dr Rory Baxter, Leonie Cooper and their project partners aim to demonstrate the potential for development of related products and services to enhance support for health in later life through examining the feasibility and impact of a digital approach to two existing ‘in person’ initiatives that use Sport/physical activity as a tool to enhance connectivity: intergenerational physical activity (IGPA) and sports-based intergenerational reminiscence (SBIR).
Key objectives of the GOALD programme include:
- understanding barriers (social, economic, geographical, health- and place-related) to older people’s access to digital resources for health connectivity;
- empirically analysing the feasibility and processes of intergenerational co-production for digital health promotion product development;
- assessing the appeal of digitally-delivered IGPA and SBIR and capturing their impacts on relevant health, well-being and relational outcomes in older and younger people;
- critically documenting the principal problems and opportunities for business engagement with older users of digital health promotion products;
- contributing to interdisciplinary theory and methods regarding health connectivity and co-production;
- offering policy and practice recommendations about how to engage older and younger people in intergenerational codesign for product development;
- fostering awareness of the benefits of user-engaged co-design of health promotion products.
Insights and outputs from the GOALD project will be of direct benefit primarily to academic audiences and stakeholders concerned with product and service development. Findings will also inform policy and practice recommendations. Older people will benefit from the development of new products and services informed by GOALD which strengthen and enhance social, digital and health connectivities. Communities will benefit from increased mutual understanding flowing from increased digital intergenerational connectivity.
Engagement with older people
An innovative intergenerational co-production approach is being employed throughout the GOALD research project, engaging older people as experts through experience in the project’s Intergenerational Advisory Group and as co-design partners and research participants in up to twenty Intergenerational Co-production Groups. The GOALD ‘Intergenerational Advisory Group’ includes younger people (high school students), older people (over age 65) and adults with experience of working with older people amongst its members. The Advisory Group meets regularly online to provide advice and feedback to the GOALD project. Older people will be active participants in the researcher-supported intergenerational co-production groups at the heart of the GOALD project. Community dwelling older people and care home residents will be recruited via partner organisations in Cornwall and Scotland and will join younger participants in up to 20 intergenerational groups, each consisting of a mix of up of four high school students and four people aged 65 or over. The intergenerational groups will meet regularly online for a full year. They will start by exploring group members’ views about physical activity, sporting memories and other leisure pastimes that older people might enjoy participating in. Their views will be fed back to the GOALD developers and shape the development of online versions of the intergenerational activities. The intergenerational groups will then try out online versions of the activities developed by GOALD researchers and explore and test assistive technology prototypes developed by businesses and organisations enterprises engaging with the GOALD project, again feeding back their views to inform subsequent iterations of the online activities or prototypes.
Working with business
The GOALD project is working with a range of businesses, not-for-profit organisations and community groups as project partners. These include: iSight Cornwall, Hearing Loss Cornwall, Cornwall Rural Community Charity, Devon and Cornwall South Asian Society, and Nudge in the South West of England; Scotland-based partners Active Stirling and Sports Heritage Scotland; and UK-wide organisations UKActive, Sporting Heritage, and Generations Working Together. Links to all of GOALD’s partner organisations can be accessed from the GOALD project webpage (https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/centre-for-health-technology/goald).
Facilitated by introductions by colleagues from the eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (EPIC) project, based at the University of Plymouth (see https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/epic), GOALD is actively engaging with innovators and small to medium-sized enterprises based in the South West interested in developing new technologies. GOALD has the potential to offer businesses that engage with the project the opportunity to test project-relevant product ideas and design concepts with its Scotland- and Cornwall-based intergenerational co-production groups. GOALD will also offer an extensive programme of business-facing events to share project findings with organisations interested in understanding the challenges of engaging different older populations in co-design and in developing new products and services. These will complement the existing programme of ‘project talks’ organised via zoom which are examples of the kinds of events GOALD will run, designed to stimulate ideas and demonstrate what is on offer for project partners and colleagues. Information on past and forthcoming events and how to access them is available from https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/goald-project-talks and may also be viewed on our twitter page (https://twitter.com/GOALDStirPlym).
Diversity and environments of ageing
GOALD recognises the critical contribution that inclusivity makes to the validity and generalisability of research findings. The project welcomes and values diversity across its research team, project partners, and the young and older people who will participate in the GOALD research programme through its Intergenerational Advisory Group and Intergenerational Co-production Groups.
GOALD’s research programme seeks to promote an understanding of the barriers and challenges to improving older individuals’ links to supports for health and well-being through digital applications and devices across different environments of ageing. Through its partners and participant recruitment strategies the GOALD project hopes to engage participants representing a broad spectrum of older people in terms of socioeconomic status, health status, living arrangements, rural/urban location, digital access and literacy. This will provide, for example, evidence of the efficacy and appeal of digitally-based intergenerational interventions to improve social connections and psychological well-being among vulnerable older adults in a range of care settings and communities.