Meeting the needs of an ageing society represents one of the key challenges of the 21st century. Part of this challenge relates to pervasive inequalities that continue to shape the experience of ageing and older age. This includes, for example:
- ethnic background
This complex ecosystem of needs, risks and disparities needs further interrogation if we are serious about improving social inclusion and converting interest in equality into actionable solutions.
We need to better understand inequalities faced by those in under-researched groups, and the influences throughout individuals lives that are most associated with inequalities in later life outcomes.
The ambition of the inclusive ageing initiative is to radically reimagine inclusivity in ageing. Its focus is on reducing the impact of inequalities while extending and expanding the existing parameters of ageing research.
We want to encourage new and wide-ranging perspectives across sectors and groups, funding research which ultimately has the potential to achieve transformative societal impact.
All projects should:
- take an intersectional and a lifecourse approach to examining later life inequalities, maximising the use of existing datasets where appropriate
- contribute to extending and diversifying existing evidence in the field of ageing, improving understanding of how under-researched groups experience ageing
- engage in partnerships that cross disciplines and sectors, using innovative approaches and methods
- generate tangible actions to improve inclusivity for older people, through practical interventions or meaningful policy innovations.
We want projects to take an intersectional approach, accounting for the range of factors which affect later life outcomes. However, in order to improve evidence on under-researched groups, all projects must improve understanding of ageing in relation to one or more of the following groups:
- disabled adults with lifelong physical and learning impairments (from birth or developed in early life) including those with conditions which meant limited lifespans in the past but who are now living longer
- ethnic minority adults from midlife to later life, this also includes white minority groups, such as Gypsy, Roma and Irish traveller groups
- LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and others) adults from midlife to later life.
In addition, projects should explore one or more of the following themes:
- contemporary ageing risks: societal changes mean that experiences of ageing are changing compared to earlier generations. For example, more people are growing older with obesity, without children, experiencing higher levels of social isolation, with mental health conditions, or with conditions that would have limited life expectancy previously
- place: examining how place at local, regional, and national level impacts upon later life outcomes, including provision and access to social care. This can also include housing, the effect of geographical location (for example, rural, urban, coastal) on exclusion, or inequalities experienced in later life
- social networks: understanding the changing nature of social networks and the impact and function of these, inside or outside ‘traditional’ family structures. This can also explore new connections between individuals and communities in person and/or through online social networks
- employment and income: this includes exploring the later life impact of the changing nature of work, for example the gig economy, later retirement, rise in precarity in certain sectors, and multiple job transitions. Also, the impact of changes to other forms of income, and relationship to family circumstances and provision of care
- education and skills: considering the impact of skills and education on outcomes in later life, including access to life-long learning opportunities and learning new skills, for example digital literacy. This also includes transitions associated with under-achievement or past interruption in education.
Applicants are encouraged to draw on evidence from existing data investments where feasible and appropriate. Projects can take steps to improve representativeness of datasets as part of their research process, although dataset enhancement or production should not be the primary aim of projects.
This initiative aims to drive forward inclusivity and change, so projects should therefore offer a research environment that supports inclusivity. Engaging people with lived experience of issues being researched at all stages of the project is also strongly encouraged.
We encourage the use of innovative leadership and management approaches to enable and facilitate leadership development and capacity building. We encourage the participation of early career researchers within applications and where appropriate, as co-investigators.
It is likely ESRC will undertake activity to co-ordinate awards, however this is dependent on the final portfolio of grants awarded. As a minimum, successful projects will be expected to participate in joint grant holder events and activities, including those that are part of the UKRI healthy ageing initiative.
Ineligible costs and activity
The following will not be supported:
- research that duplicates or overlaps with other planned or ongoing research
- proposals that are deemed to be less than 50% social science
- PhD studentships
- proposals that focus solely on the impact of COVID-19
- proposals whose primary aim is to produce or enhance datasets.