The project explored older people’s experiences of transitions in care, what needs older people have during times of transition, and whether those needs are being met by local services. The project focused on four groups of older people whose needs are not well understood and/or whose needs might be expected to be more complex. One of those groups was older people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, and the research that explored the experiences of this group took place in Leicester. The project used a participatory research approach, involving developing and maintaining partnerships with older people as ‘co-researchers’ throughout the research process. In Leicester, eight people from Leicester’s BME communities contributed to the project as co-researchers.
In each of the areas taking part in the project, the research lead formed a partnership with a local voluntary sector organisation that was working closely with the group that it wanted to involve. In Leicester, the partner organisation was the local branch of Age UK, with the organisation’s BME community development worker team playing a particularly important role in the partnership. Working through Age UK’s networks, information about the project and the opportunity to become a co-researcher was distributed to many local BME groups across the area. Given the responsibilities associated with the role, it was decided that people would have to submit an application and a short (informal) telephone interview was carried out. All co-researchers were CRB checked.
The research team had reviewed the literature on involving older people in research before getting underway with the project. From this they were aware that previous efforts of involve older people as co-researchers had often been limited to participation in data collection, but had not extended to other aspects of the research project (such as research design or data analysis). With this in mind, they tried to design a project that could be co-produced at all stages. In Leicester, co-researchers were involved in:
A training programme was designed for co-researchers, which was delivered at various stages of the project. As well as the training days, the research lead met with the co-researchers as a group on other occasions as and when needed. The training programme was designed to fulfil three aims:
Early training sessions included role play activities to practice interview skills and the research team developed a DVD (with members of a service user and carer network at the University of Birmingham) with good and bad interview scenarios to encourage discussion. Support was offered to co-researchers on an ongoing basis in many ways, including debriefs at the end of each interview. The involvement of the voluntary sector partner was also vital in this respect, as it gave co-researchers a source of support from somebody who was independent of the research team.
The project’s participatory approach was evaluated to explore what difference it made in terms of the research process and outcomes. The evaluation clearly demonstrated that both the academic researchers and co-researchers really enjoyed working together and learning from one another. The involvement of co-researchers in Leicester benefitted the project in many ways:
Learning from the project suggests that the following factors contribute to the success of co-research approaches:
Jo EllinsHealth Services Management CentreUniversity of Birmingham40 Edgbaston Park RoadBirmingham B15 2RT