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Principal investigator on the TOUS study, Stephanie Tierney, reflects on presenting as part of a symposium in Newcastle at the 2024 conference run by the British Society of Gerontology.

In July 2024, I had the pleasure of presenting at the British Society of Gerontology alongside colleagues from Manchester (UK) and Akita (Japan). The title of our symposium was ‘Enhancing community connections for ageing populations: Exploring diverse approaches’. I introduced the audience to the idea of social prescribing and the role of the cultural sector within this. I described the work we have undertaken on this topic focused on older people. I also introduced those present to the TOUS study (Tailoring cultural offers with and for diverse older users of social prescribing). I talked about the different work packages involved in this research and how we are progressing with it to produce a set of recommendations by May 2025. Questions asked led to a discussion about the link worker role and how this related to other posts/activities in social care.

Luciana Lang, from the University of Manchester, opened the symposium. She talked about research undertaken on faith-based spaces, noting how they are somewhere that older people from ethnic minority groups experience their culture – seeing the two as intertwined. She mentioned how faith-based spaces could be particularly important when people were undergoing transitional stages in their life (e.g. due to bereavement). Luciana also noted the importance of providing food within these spaces as an opportunity for bringing people together and giving service to the community. This idea of food as reflective of culture is something we have noted in our TOUS study.

Kyoko Nomura, from Akita University School of Medicine, described a pilot study of social prescribing run in this part of Japan, where about a third of the population are over 65 years old and suicide rates increase with age. Link workers and physicians involved in the pilot study, when interviewed, talked about being interested in social prescribing, despite having limited resources to refer people on to. Kyoko mentioned the potential use of technology (e.g. the internet of things, artificial intelligence) as a means of finding social prescribing support due to Akita being a remote area that experienced inclement weather. The use of technology is not a large part of our TOUS study but we have discussed, with some providers, the application of online sessions as an option in terms of cultural provision for older people from ethnic minority groups.

Patty Doran, from the University of Manchester, closed the symposium by talking about supporting ageing in cities. A case comparison study was presented – between Manchester and Akita. Findings from this research have highlighted the important role of leadership and influencing, coalition building and place-based working (working with community leaders and organisations in a setting). These are ideas that reflect some of the issues we have identified in the case study work we have been conducting for our TOUS study.

There was a lot of reference within the symposium to the World Health Organization’s Age-friendly Cities Framework and the eight domains within it. This is something we will be reviewing in relation to the TOUS study as we continue to collect data for this project.


The TOUS study mentioned in this blog is funded by a grant from UK Research and Innovation (MR/Y010000/1). The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the funder or the author’s host institution.