Co-research with older people: perspectives on impact

Rosemary Littlechild, Denise Tanner, Kelly Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)
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Although research in partnership with older people has been slower to develop than that with some other service user ‘groups’, there are a growing number of health and social care studies that have involved older people as co-researchers. We build on this existing evidence by addressing two key areas. First, despite the growth of participatory research with older people generally, some groups tend to be excluded. We focus particularly on a project in which older people with dementia and older people from a black and minority ethnic community were involved as co-researchers. They worked with academic researchers in all stages of the research process, exploring other older people’s experiences of transitions between care services. Second, recent literature suggests a lack of critical evaluation of involvement, arguing that researchers tend to emphasise the positives on the basis of retrospective narrative accounts of the process, rather than critically appraising the impact of involvement. This article offers a critical account of the impact of a participatory approach at different stages of a research project, evaluating this from the perspective of different stakeholders. In so doing, we engage with incisive critiques which claim that, far from empowering service users, much service user involvement activity contributes to their oppression. We conclude that participatory research with marginalised older people has the potential to achieve meaningful change at both individual and social levels. However, in view of its dangers and limitations, we argue the need for the impact of participatory research to be carefully evaluated from the perspectives of all parties in the process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-35
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Older adults
  • participatory research
  • evaluation
  • service users
  • user research


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