Work Package 6: Sharing Knowledge and Supporting Innovative Practice

Involving Others in Conducting Research and Sharing Findings (led by Dr Cate Pemble)

As a research project that runs over three years, the DesHCA project had the rare opportunity to dedicate time and resources to making sure that we not only heard the voices of the different individuals, groups, and organisations with an interest in designing homes for healthy cognitive aging, but that we communicate in a way that let them hear our voice in return.

DesHCA was designed to invite stakeholders into the heart of the research process where they could play a role in shaping both the research process and the outcomes of the project. This meant inviting key stakeholders, professionals, and older people to help design and shape the research as project partners and community researchers, advise us as members of our reference and advisory groups, and connect with us to help us reach out and connect with people and communities who could benefit from our findings and resources.

DesHCA had two main groups that acted as ‘critical friends’, providing the team with vital expertise and experience to make sure the project stayed tightly focused on it’s goals.

The Reference Group was a group of people who were ‘experts by experience’. This meant their expertise and insight came from their life experience, whether that came from having their own needs change as they aged or supporting others who might benefit or have benefited from supportive design and adaptation.

Members of the reference group were given the opportunity to influence many different areas of the DesHCA project. They were a vital part of the process, and key to ensuring the needs and desires of older people were kept at the centre of the research.

Members of the reference group recently worked together to develop a video resource about co-production, which will act as a guide and a resource for academics and policymakers who are keen to use co-productive methods but don’t know where to start. The video will be embedded here and included in our resources once it becomes avaliable.

The Advisory Group was a group of academics and experts from different areas that had the in-depth knowledge necessary to help guide the project and identify opportunities.

These academics came from different disciplinary backgrounds and were close enough to be enthusiastic about DesHCA without being involved in the day-to-day aspects of the project. Being part of the advisory group gave members a top-down view of the project, which helped them identify different challenges and opportunities than the ones noticed by the DesHCA team ‘on the ground’, making the project stronger overall.

Community researchers were volunteers who joined the DesHCA project as part of the research team. Our community researchers were usually also members of the Reference Group, and were older people who wanted to contribute more directly to the day-to-day activities of the project.

Each community researcher brought a different set of skills and strengths to the team, and they were supported to contribute to the areas that interested them the most. This meant that different peer researchers were involved in different areas of the research at different times over the course of the project- Ro Pengelly and Joan Gibson were even involved in writing the bid itself! From the first moment of the project to it’s last, DesHCA’s community researchers continued to be some of it’s strongest supporters, keenest networkers, and optimistic scanners of future horizons. The project was incredibly lucky to count them among our number, and they ended the project with the deepest gratitude of the team.

While many of the events and activities held during the DesHCA project  involved bringing a group of people together to talk about a subject, most of them focused on moving information in one direction, either towards the research team during data collection, or out into the world once we were presenting our findings.

DesHCA’s knowledge exchange events were slightly different. These events were designed to help information flow in multiple directions in an atmosphere that encouraged learning from both the research team and the people in the ‘audience’. These events developed as the project did and were targeted to meet the needs of different stakeholder groups over time. Events included an early cost-benefit digital roundtable, which brought together professionals from different backgrounds to discuss some of the challenges associated with creating age-inclusive, cognitively supportive housing in the real-world. This was followed by another event that invited older people to tell us about what they knew about supportive home design and adaptations, where they found that information, and what they wished they’d known sooner, while asking questions of the research team.

Later events began to focus more on presenting DesHCA’s insights and findings to particular groups and asking for their insight and feedback. This ‘sense-checking’ process helped the research team refine their findings and deliver recommendations and resources that were targeted, evidence-based, and useful as the project went on.

Although the project draws to an end in 2024, the team are still keeping an eye on the horizon to find opportunities to bring people together in a setting where they can ask questions, contribute their insights, and raise their concerns to ensure we keep building much needed awareness and momentum around age-inclusive design and work together to create a future we want to grow old in.

Legacy resources refer to the resources developed by the DesHCA project that will continue to available after the end of the project. Legacy resources are a vital part of creating change and supporting a move towards creating homes that are more supportive for people as they age – you can find them all on our resources page. DesHCA is proud to create resources that are high quality, empirically based, and tailored to the needs of the people who want to use them, so please do let us know if you download, use, or share these resources so we can learn, improve, and hopefully create even better resources in the future.