As a publisher, we play a significant role in supporting the development of new research understanding and skills, and in reflecting on emerging agendas and dilemmas, including online data, evidence use, ethical practice, mixed methods, participatory approaches and cross-disciplinary learning.
Our titles on social research methods and research practices span disciplines and embrace new collaborations and ways of working as part of a focus on challenge-led research.
Highlights in this area include the Social Research Association Shorts, which provide academics and research users with short, high-quality and focused guides to specific topics, and the Longitudinal and Life Course Studies journal.
Social Research Methods and Research Practices
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Chapter 7 examines the lived experiences of retirement housing residents, specifically mid-market consumers – those that have moved from owning familial homes to a retirement apartment. It presents narrative accounts of three part-fictional characters – Patrick, Gladys and Paula – that both affirm and contest assumed consumer profiles, while casting doubt on aspects of a property developer’s image of its customer. The research story reflects the positions of homeowners met in the field through a series of research residencies, which involved the researcher staying overnight and engaging in social events within shared lounges at a sample of retirement villas developed by Pink & Knight. Thus groups of resident owners contributed to an understanding of home identities and motives for moving, as well as candid feedback on the retirement-living lifestyle and product in which they are invested. Contextual interviews – conducted with informants inside their homes, walking and talking through their interiors – revealed tacit knowledge, including an array of domestic ‘niggles’ and ‘snags’ associated with their new home. Here residents expressed a deep appreciation for the social architecture, over and above the physical environment.
Chapter 14 draws together the research stories contained within this volume, presenting them as an anthology that captures multiple cultures connected to British retirement housing, while highlighting key areas of significance and contribution to environmental gerontology. It also presents a reminder to readers that the retirement-living products at the centre of this book represent just one accommodation solution or typology – retirement blocks – that serve a niche segment of the UK population and contribute a relatively small volume of for-sale properties to overall housing stock. This chapter also calls to mind the wider social purpose of housing and the inherent risk in pursuing the commodification of residential ‘units’ or ‘rooms’ and financialisation of housing generally. Here readers are invited to reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the significance of good-quality homes, especially during periods of lockdown, which revealed great disparity of experience due to housing inequality, particularly in relation to dwelling size, proximity to outdoor space, and environmental performance (heating and cooling). Volume housing, especially apartment blocks, must be considered first and foremost as homes and places for dwelling, with potential to meet the changing needs of occupants over the long term, including those ageing in place.
Chapter 2 explores the evolution of specialist accommodation for older people, reaching as far back as medieval monastic orders and an extra-claustral building called the ‘farmery’ that housed clergymen deemed no longer fit for work. The chapter traces the emergence of a class of non-working elders as a growing population segment – known as the ‘deserving poor’ – and explores common living arrangements for those unable to work in later life. It considers progressive social provisions made within 19th-century workhouses, public assistance institutions and infirmaries in Britain, as well as parliamentary discourse that considered the need for ‘cottage homes’ to accommodate former staff members of country estates. The chapter also explores how different sovereign nations sought to accommodate former soldiers within veteran hospitals, such as Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, and how these represent an extreme form of communal living and social investment in a particular group of older people. More generally, the chapter examines almshousing as a distinct and lasting building type that has continued to evolve; its characteristics have been translated into contemporary specialist housing, including early models of what we now recognise as ‘sheltered housing’.
Chapter 12 presents the position of the town planner working within a UK Local Planning Authority (LPA), and their vital role in development control – specifically regulation of housing for older people. Town planners are uniquely placed as public servants in-between housing providers and consumers and the interests of the wider public. This chapter includes a part-fictionalised account of a planning inquiry where two LPA representatives – ‘Victor’ and ‘Rachel’ – advance a case for refusal of planning permission against a retirement housing scheme. This story highlights the importance of well-resourced and expert LPA teams, to help shape and ensure good-quality built environments in support of societal needs. The chapter also examines regional planning policy and guidance in relation to retirement housing. It highlights an ongoing ‘identity problem’ with regards to retirement-living products and their passage through the English planning system. The story raises further concerns about limited resources, with individual town planners being apparently hard-to-reach and planning teams lacking specialist knowledge. The chapter also underlines the importance of planners having capacity for innovation and work that goes beyond protecting ‘what is’ – conserving existing built environments and maintaining existent policies – and investing in ‘what could be’ through creative facilitation and plan-making.
Chapter 5 provides an overview of one property developer’s retirement-living product – the retirement villa – developed by ‘Pink & Knight’ for the UK independent-living homeowner market. The chapter explains the villa concept and its evolution from sheltered housing schemes developed in the late 20th century. The chapter thus contextualises the villa within a spectrum of accommodation types inhabited by older people. It includes discussion of contemporary models, such as Extra Care, which operate on a ‘village’ scale, rather than a single building block and deliberately blur the lines between specialist housing and care institution. Here there is fertile ground for further innovation, but also potential confusion around product identities and how they are understood by consumers, estate agents and the wider public, as well as local authority planning departments.
Chapter 8 reflects on the position of wardens and scheme managers – specifically villa managers – as personnel responsible for providing a concierge service to residents, and a facilities management service to property developers. The chapter provides background information on this group of workers and an exploration of the villa manager’s job description, including their role in the promotion and maintenance of the social architecture of the villa. Here the story proper takes the form of a ‘day in the life’ of Lindsey in her workplace, providing an account of the social world she helps to support and sustain. The story reflects upon the villa manager’s shifting position, necessitated by engagement with an array of stakeholders, ranging from employers to customers and visiting others. The story highlights the concerns of the villa manager, including ‘grey’ areas between customer expectations and customer care. It also portrays something of the challenges presented by an ageing cohort of residents with collective ambitions to reshape the villa environment – the shared lounge especially – and the villa manager’s potential to contribute towards design review of this setting. Thus this chapter shines a light on personnel that are expert in the maintenance of retirement living; an expertise that appears largely untapped.
This book presents and interprets the stories of nine actors involved in the design, construction, management and habitation of third age housing in the UK. The primary motivation behind this book is to offer a creative practice research perspective to the field of gerontology – through anthropology by means of design – and, specifically, an architectural ‘insider’ view on the designed environments of retirement housing. One distinct intention of this work is to amplify the voice of architects among associated researchers, but also, through sharing aspects of the underlying multi-sited ethnography, give voice to some overlooked actors within the research field that are equally well-placed to contribute to design discussions of retirement-living products. Readers are invited to consider the question of how designers – professional or otherwise – can facilitate the wellbeing of older people in their homes, by optimising design details of these micro environments, in support of collective ambitions to age in place for as long as possible. Related to this, it is anticipated that readers might seek authentication of retirement housing – as products marketed as ‘specialist’ housing options – asking the question whether all housing should be age-friendly. The book is especially relevant to scholars in the fields of ageing and environmental gerontology, as well as architecture and the built environment. It will also appeal to industry professionals and practitioners from the housing sector more broadly. The visual vignettes and variety of writing approaches – from storytelling to reflective accounts – make this an accessible, transdisciplinary book. It may also be read by people preparing for later life.
Chapter 4 contains a research story that portrays the changing state of home for an older person. It presents a narrative account of the author’s experience befriending ‘Rose’ and witnessing her relationship with home in the fourth age of life. Rose is representative of the fastest growing section of the UK population – the so-called ‘old-old’ or those aged 85 years and older. Rose had limited financial means and was dependent upon care workers and family members for her everyday needs. Diminished mobility led her to experiencing degradations of dignity/privacy while at home, including losing control over who had access to (and what actions were performed within) her home. Her story offers insights into multivariate meanings of home – as an apparatus and companion, for instance – and everyday behavioural observations of ageing in place, drawing specific attention to material details within micro environments. Rose’s story presents some common challenges familiar to a lot of older people, including experiences of environmental press and feeling less at home, but also a keen resistance to moving into another place – especially a nursing home. This chapter expresses sympathy for a vulnerable friend, while developing design empathy for all those that find themselves disabled or disadvantaged by their home.
This chapter shares insights from some of the organisations who have experience of embedding this approach in their work. It has a resources section setting out some useful information for working in this way. It includes a description of the software OutNav developed by the authors and used for embedding this approach.
A meaningful connection between activities and outcomes is often vague or unexplored – but this magic ‘how’ change happens is essential for driving programmes and for understanding their impact. Outcome or impact maps are the core of the approach in this book, as the building block for setting out, understanding, learning about and evidencing change. This is one type of ‘theory of change’ approach which is common for understanding change in complex systems. We believe that process-driven theories of change are most effective for public services, and in this chapter we set out our version of this – outcome or impact mapping – and illustrate how they can be used at different levels.