Kenniscentrum Techniek

Enhancing citizens’ participation in the community to promote health and wellbeing

learning from a project on Age friendly City (AFC) with seniors as co-researchers

Samenvatting (abstract)

Background In 2015, Amsterdam became part of the WHO Age Friendly City community, thereby accepting the responsibility to work towards a more age friendly Amsterdam. To study senior citizens’ needs and wishes concerning the age friendliness of their neighbourhood, the municipality asked the Amsterdam University of Applied Science to set up two pilot projects in two neighbourhoods. Aim was to 1) gain insight in seniors’ views and wishes regarding an age friendly city, and 2) reflect on the experiences with working with senior co-researchers. Methodology The study followed a Participatory Action Research approach with research teams consisting of seniors as co-researchers and professional researchers. We chose two neighbourhoods with distinct characteristics: the Indische Buurt which is centrally located, vibrant, multicultural, and strongly gentrifying, and Buitenveldert, a suburban and spacious neighbourhood, with less facilities and a dominance of well-to-do senior citizens. In both areas, we recruited senior co-researchers to form the research teams. They generally lived in, or close to, the pilot neighbourhood, and varied in age and ethnical background. The aim was to put the co-researchers in the lead during the entire research process. However, it differed between the neighbourhoods which type of researcher was in the lead. As a team, they formulated the main research question, constructed a topic list for interviews with older citizens, convened the interviews, analysed the data, wrote the report, and presented the results. During the entire process, they were supported by professional researchers. Both research teams interviewed 40 senior citizens, who were recruited through the co-researchers’ networks, professional care organisations, neighbourhood communities, and local media. We intended to gather a sample representative for the neighbourhood population. In the Indische Buurt, this proved to be difficult, since the relatively large Turkish and Moroccan communities were difficult to get into contact with, and it was hard to find co-researchers from those communities who could have provided a way in. Process and outcomes We will share some of the results, but we will mainly reflect on the research process. Process Regarding the process, we found some differences between the two neighbourhoods. In the Indische Buurt, it took much effort to find co-researchers, since the seniors we encountered said to be too busy with other neighbourhood activities. We did recruit a small group of four co-researchers of different ethnical background, but sadly lacking Turkish and Moroccan seniors. They started with a very limited research experience and experienced ownership, which greatly increased during the process. At the finalisation of the project, the group ceased to be, but the outcomes were followed up by existing groups and organisations in the neighbourhood. In Buitenveldert, a large group of co-researchers was recruited in no-time, bearing more resemblance to an action group than a research group. They were generally highly educated and some already had research experience. The group proved to be pro-active, had a strong feeling of ownership, and worked in constant collaboration with the ‘professional’ researchers, respecting each other’s knowledge and skills. At the finalisation of the project, the group remained active as partner of the local government. Outcomes Concerning the content of the outcomes, we found some expected differences and unexpected similarities. For instance, we expected to find different outcomes concerning housing and facilities between the neighbourhoods. Indeed, in Buitenveldert, housing was already age friendly whereas facilities were scarce and geographically far apart. Yet, in the Indische Buurt, housing was poorly equipped for physically impaired seniors, but facilities were abundant and close by. We also found that, in both neighbourhoods, senior citizens were reluctant to share their limitations and ask for support, despite differences in neighbourhood, ethnicity, age etc. Of course, this can be expected of seniors from the ‘silent generation’. However, they seemingly shared these emotions more easily with their peers than with professional researchers. Conclusion The social-cultural context of the neighbourhood impacts the research process. Overall, co-research appears to be a fruitful method to involve senior citizens in decisions concerning the improvement of their neighbourhood. Aims and content of the workshop We aim to: • present our reflections on the participative process of working with senior co-researchers in Amsterdam • exchange and discuss with the participants of the workshop the lessons learned on how to facilitate citizens’ participation in the community • discuss similar and future projects and possibilities for collaboration among the participants of the workshop Content of the workshop • Presentation • Exchange and discussion in small groups • Plenary discussion on possible collaboration projects aiming to enhance citizens’ participation in the community

Reference Metze, R. N., van Nes, F., Groot-Sluijsmans, B., Berkvens, E., & Veldboer, L. (2017). Enhancing citizens’ participation in the community to promote health and wellbeing: learning from a project on Age friendly City (AFC) with seniors as co-researchers. Abstract from U!REKA Edinburgh, edinburgh, United Kingdom.
1 January 2017

Publication date

Jan 2017


R.N. Metze
Fenna van Nes
Barbara Groot-Sluijsmans
Eileen Berkvens


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