Older people in England: the geography of challenges and opportunities

Researchers: Frances Darlington-Pollock | Les Dolega ...

Project overview


This project will create better understanding of social and spatial differences within the older population in England.

By 2041, approximately 26% of the UK population will be aged 65 and over, and people aged 50 and over are likely to make up half of the adult population. The success of the economy will be linked to an ageing workforce, as the proportion of workers aged between 50 and state pension age will increase to 35% over the next 30 years. The ageing population will put existing models of service provision under severe financial pressure. However, current policy often presents the older population as a homogenous group, not acknowledging the variation in characteristics, behaviours and needs within this demographic. This project will develop an open access, multidimensional classification of the older population in England at a small area level, enabling more effective service planning and policy development.

The project will take place across three work packages: creating the geodemographic classification, ground-truthing, and applying the classification. As well as providing a robust descriptive account of the social and spatial stratification in the older population nationally, this research will demonstrate the importance of understanding this stratification for policy.

The classification will employ a wide range of spatially representative attributes and metrics across the following domains: demographic, socio-economic, health, consumption patterns, digital, mobility and environment. It will cover traditional census-based variables (such as age, sex, ethnicity, education and socio-economic status), migration indicators, and more novel metrics such as digital engagement and internet use, consumption patterns, and NHS prescribing. By using census data, the study will capture information on residents in care homes, who are often excluded from standard survey samples. For the environment domain, it will draw on data from the Access to Healthy Assets and Hazards dataset, capturing access to green space, exposure to air pollution, and access to health services.

The second work package will involve working with local stakeholders and older people to ground-truth the model specification and the clusters identified by the classification, ensuring that the research has meaning to the end-user. The third work package will consist of three strands: enhancing small area estimates, understanding housing need, and targeting service delivery. This final strand is a case study application to demonstrate how the classification can be used to inform more targeted promotion of services in appropriate areas and to highlight potential unmet need. Existing service use across adult social care will be explored, comparing use against the geodemographic classification to understand the characteristics of who is and is not using available services.

This research will produce an online open access platform visualising the geodemographic classification of older people in England, including interactive maps and pen portraits of the identified clusters. This tool will provide invaluable insights for stakeholders to support service planning, resource-allocation and retail provision. The researchers will publish a main public report presenting the classification and key findings, and will produce policy briefs, newsletter articles, how-to briefs and policy workshops to illustrate the utility of the classification at a local level. Articles will be published in academic journals and the research presented at two academic conferences.

Team


  • Frances Darlington-Pollock
    University of Liverpool
  • Les Dolega
    University of Liverpool
  • Alex Lord
    University of Liverpool
  • Rich Dunning
    University of Liverpool

  • Programme Head, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

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