Healthy Ageing Through Innovation in Rural Europe | 2 Mers Seas Zeeën


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Healthy Ageing Through Innovation in Rural Europe

Priority Axis

Technological and Social Innovation

Specific objective

Social Innovation

Lead partner

University of Exeter





Project budget

5 207 392

ERDF amount

3 124 435

ERDF rate



    Common challenge

    Rural communities in the 2 Seas area are at risk of dying out: their populations are ageing and poor public transport, lack of local support and facilities, out-migration of young people, reduced services, isolation and fragmented health and social care systems all negatively impact the health and wellbeing of older people. The numbers of elderly (aged 60+) will double in the next 30 years in the 2 Seas area. The common societal challenge tackled by HAIRE is managing the needs of the ageing population whilst encouraging healthy ageing and realising the potential of older people, which has been overlooked. The benefits of healthy ageing are felt by individuals, communities and service providers. However, little has been done to empower and enable older people to define the support they need, participate in the design and delivery of services, and develop solutions for themselves with the support of the voluntary, public and private sectors.

    Main Achievements

    HAIRE’s project partners have developed and deployed the HAIRE toolkit in the 8 pilot sites. The training of volunteers and social care professionals to use the toolkit in the pilot sites has taken place which allowed 'HAIRE Enablers' to conduct 500 Guided Conversations with people over the age of 60 who are no longer in employment. The cross-border cooperation has been outstanding, with every partner contributing to PMGs, drop-in sessions, CREATE and SHAPE workshops, working in small Action Learning Sets and attending the final conference in Gent in February 2023. 
    The CREATE and SHAPE processes have resulted in numerous local innovations to support people suffering loneliness and isolation. These include knitting and walking groups, community transport, welcome postcards, intergenerational projects, community directories and more. 

    Partners have developed relationships with organisations interested in the transferability of the toolkit both geographically (adjacent to and beyond pilot sites) but also across sector boundaries to unexpected target groups. HAIRE’s approach is being applied more widely, e.g. for mental health support in different vulnerable groups such as the homeless (with CoLab in Exeter, UK) and to support doctors and social prescribers to deliver on a key NHS priority for healthy ageing (with the Coastal Primary Care Network in Cornwall, UK). It is being used to support the development of the Age-Friendly Community strategy in Hastings (UK). The toolkit has also been adapted for use in municipalities in Belgium and by a charity supporting young people in Somerset, UK. A comprehensive WIKI is now being completed so that future users can adapt the HAIRE Toolkit to tackle issues that they face in their own communities.

    HAIRE’s legacy is a real highlight. In most pilot sites, the work will go on. Feock parish Council has secured funding for a permanent, part-time role in the community. Meanwhile, Welzijnszorg Kempen noted that the project changed the way people were communicating with the local municipality and how they organised themselves. Elsewhere, the Département du Nord has created multi-agency policy working groups of elected members, older people, and care agencies. The toolkit has been taken up to support Community Health Workers in central Cornwall.


    For me, HAIRE is synonymous with sharing… we discovered a fabulous team, around a common goal when we were elaborating the first sketches of what became the Guided Conversation (GC).Co-design also extended into the pilot sites. 

    Université d'Artois

     We had great input from our volunteers who effectively co-designed that part of the process and in that moment the project shifted… to [being] community-based, co-owned, co-delivered.

    East Sussex County Council

    Really enjoyed that HAIRE volunteers changed the way they thought about themselves and learn[ed] about other people. The project changed the way people were communicating with the local municipality and how they organised themselves. My heart…jump[ed] when [a] staff member of the mobility team reached out to the HAIRE team, saying we are changing this maybe we should have a look at this together. That never happened before.

    Université d’Artois




    Conseil Départemental du Nord

    Rother Voluntary Action

    East Sussex County Council

    University of Plymouth

    Welzijnszorg Kempen

    Université d’Artois


    OCMW Laakdal

    Stad en OCMW Poperinge

    Solidarity University

    Devon Mind Ltd

    Feock Parish Council

    Unis-Cité Hauts de France


    Output title
    URL / Download


    Thema: Innovative social servicesIntegration and education

    Pilot actions to develop community capacity based on the outcomes of Community Reports

    Type: Pilot and demonstration action
    Target: Local, regional and national authorities


    Thema: Innovative social servicesIntegration and education

    Guidance including a template for service delivery innovation using the HAIRE Toolkit with learning from the CREATE and SHAPE workshops

    Type: Method/service
    Target: Social enterprises and non-for-profit organisations


    Thema: Innovative social servicesIntegration and education

    Transferable HAIRE Toolkit including Guided Conversation, Social Network Analysis & Neighbourhood Analysis tools & training materials

    Type: Method/service
    Target: Social enterprises and non-for-profit organisations


    Thema: Innovative social servicesIntegration and education

    HAIRE Training Materials for Enablers to use Toolkit & become peer mentors to train others in sites adjacent to pilot sites

    Type: Method/service
    Target: Citizens