Establishing long-term research relationships with older people: exploring care practices in longitudinal studies

Katia Attuyer, Rose Gilroy, Karen Croucher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on a recently completed longitudinal research project with 96 participants aged 55+, the paper provides insight into the challenges of carrying out ethical practices when engaged in longer-term research relationships with older people. It builds on a body of work that purposely records in detail the ethical dilemmas researchers face, the options available to them and the rationale guiding their reaction. The Co-Motion research, led by the University of York, examined the impact of major later-life transitions on mobility and wellbeing, and was therefore focused on times of change that were, for some participants, accompanied by suffering. Over three years, the project used a range of methods to explore with each individual the dynamic nature of lived experience: change, continuity, endurance, transition and causality. The paper addresses the negotiation of informed consent over the life of long-term research relationships; the 'care work' involved; contested understandings of vulnerability; and the need for ongoing ethical reflection. The paper concludes by calling for greater reflexivity and suggests a more participant-focused approach to ethics in the field, demanding both greater self-awareness from researchers and allowing the participants to have greater voice in the research processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1064-1083
Number of pages20
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of its programme Design for Wellbeing: Ageing and Mobility in the Built Environment (grant reference EP/K03748X/1). The EPSRC played no role in the design, execution, analysis and interpretation of the data, or writing of the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2018.


  • ethics
  • life transitions
  • qualitative longitudinal research
  • vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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