Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Health and wellbeing research portfolio – healthy ageing

Demographic change brings new challenges and opportunities. The arts and humanities have a big part to play towards meeting the needs of older people and improving their health and wellbeing. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has supported a range of research projects in this area.

Partners involved:
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Medical Research Council (MRC)

Why we're doing it

Demographic change and ageing populations are bringing new challenges and opportunities to countries around the world. The World Health Organisation noted that Europe’s population is forecast to increase its proportion of people aged 65 and over from 14% in 2010 to 25% in 2050. Other world regions are also finding that more people are living longer.

This rapid change means we need to find ways of ageing well and promoting wellbeing in later years. The arts and humanities have a part to play here recognising:

  • the value of the arts to wellbeing
  • the quality of life and social participation
  • how design needs to meet the changing needs of people as they age
  • the ethics of care for vulnerable populations
  • the importance of memory and connections in ageing communities.

Opportunities, support and resources available

You can apply for a standard research grant at any time.

Standard (sometimes known as ‘responsive’) funding opportunities are open to a wide range of research and approaches within AHRC’s remit.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

AHRC has supported a range of research projects in this area across standard and strategic funding opportunities.

New dynamics of ageing

The first significant investment was the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) programme, an eight year interdisciplinary initiative led by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) that AHRC collaborated on. NDA ran between 2007 and 2014 and became the largest and most ambitious research programme on ageing ever run in the UK.

Tangible memories: communities in care

The Tangible Memories project explored how connections can be built in ageing communities, looking at care homes as a unique environment that brings together older people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. How can a sense of community be built in such settings to promote wellbeing, social trust and inclusiveness amongst residents?

Find out more at the Tangible Memories project website.

Further research

For more examples of research we have supported you can read a longer feature on How a hug can help people with dementia or read about the cross-council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing initiative.

Last updated: 8 February 2023

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