Healthy Ageing Through Innovation in Rural Europe
Priority AxisTechnological and Social Innovation
Lead partnerUniversity of Exeter
Project budget5 363 199 €
ERDF amount3 217 919 €
Rural communities in the 2Seas 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 (1). The numbers of elderly (aged 60+) will double in the next 30 years in the 2Seas area (2, 3). The common societal challenge for the 2Seas area is managing the needs of the ageing population whilst encouraging healthy ageing and realising the potential of older people, which has been overlooked (4). The benefits of healthy ageing are felt by individuals, communities and service providers (5, 6). 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.
Develop and test systems that empower and enable older people (aged 60+ and no longer employed) in rural areas to:
- define what support they need;
- participate in the design & delivery of services;
- develop solutions for themselves to reduce loneliness & improve quality of life, health & wellbeing, based on their own interests, capabilities & preferences & supported by the voluntary, private & public sectors.
Expected change in pilot sites:
- reduce isolation & loneliness & improve wellbeing in the 60+ age group;
- increase collaboration between participating agencies and Voluntary & Community Sector Organisations (VCSOs);
- improve rural community vitality;
- increase active participation of older people & voluntary sector in service design & delivery;
- create new models of service delivery;
- achieve widespread change to models of delivery across the 2Seas area and beyond.
In pilot sites:
- 80 volunteers trained as HAIRE Enablers to use toolkit in villages;
- 8 Community Reports (community capacity, vitality, loneliness, isolation);
- 600 Action Plans for older people from Guided Conversations;
- 8 pilot actions to develop community capacity.
Beyond pilot sites:
- HAIRE Enablers train 80 others in adjacent areas;
- Transferable HAIRE toolkit (tools, training materials & manual);
- Lobby Workshop for governments leading to the adoption of HAIRE;
- Published guidance on multi-agency working and new models of service delivery (VCSOs, public/private sector in 2 Seas area).
- Older people, service providers, policy makers, governments, communities, volunteers & VSCOs will benefit from training;
- Data on individual needs, gaps in provision, community capacity & vitality;
- Evidence base;
- Cross border support for VSCOs;
- Models of sustainable delivery;
- HAIRE toolkit; guidance to public & private sector organisations & VCSOs.
Cross border approach
Isolation in ageing populations in rural areas is a multi-dimensional, pan-European problem (7). Our cross-border approach will:
- Allow the consortium of individuals, communities, institutions, governments and VSCOs to combine their diverse skills to tackle the problem, e.g. working with volunteers and older people, multi-agency working, co-design, developing tools and training, research and analysis;
- Enable PPs to test out shared solutions in different environments and identify how local solutions can be adapted to meet a broad range of social, cultural and political conditions, thereby achieving system-wide change;
- Allow VSCOs to innovate across borders by sharing ideas and enhancing their collective voice.
The large number of PPs and OPs in HAIRE is a unique asset: the scale of the problem requires solution-focused thinking and testing across different geographical contexts, rather than working in isolation.
HAIRE (Healthy Ageing Through Innovation in Rural Europe) is an Interreg project to develop & test systems that empower & enable older people in rural areas to develop solutions for themselves to reduce loneliness & improve their quality of life, health & wellbeing. The University of Exeter is working with 13 partners in 8 pilot areas spread across rural communities in England, northern France, Belgium & the Netherlands. Together they are developing the HAIRE toolkit which has three components: the Guided Conversation, Social Network Analysis and Neighbourhood Analysis. Volunteers & social care professionals are being trained to use the toolkit in their unique localities. Each pilot site will undertake around 75 Guided Conversations with people over the age of 60 who are no longer in employment, from which 600 action plans will be produced.
Pre COVID-19, face-to-face meetings were the cornerstone of the toolkit but as a result of the shielding of older people, virtual methods of conducting the research have been co-developed. The development of our draft pilot tools was completed & all materials were published into our member states’ languages. Our cross-border cooperation has been outstanding with every partner contributing to the creation of materials & actively sharing their learning, remaining committed to HAIRE despite C19 causing limitations. 282 older people have been recruited so far to take part in the Guided Conversations & 126 Guided Conversations are underway. We have 115 Enablers trained in using the HAIRE toolkit, with 32 individuals recruited & awaiting training: this is 184% of the identified target which is a great achievement.
Whilst some elements of the baseline data gathering have been affected by the pandemic, opportunities arose to begin work on promoting the HAIRE toolkit to wider audiences. Partners have engaged in developing relationships with organisations interested in the transferability of the toolkit both geographically (adjacent to & beyond pilot sites) but also across sector boundaries to unexpected target groups. We are seeing opportunities for HAIRE’s person-centred approach to be applied widely, e.g. for mental health support in different vulnerable groups such as the homeless, beyond the project & into the future. We are delighted to be already building relationships with organisations that will be invited to participate in the regional & lobby workshops planned in 2022.