Social relations and civic engagement includes a broad range of social topics such as civic engagement, volunteering, social cohesion, loneliness, cultural participation, and lifelong learning.
Care and Caring Communities starts from a profound critique on traditional, problem-based, medical-oriented care systems. Our research projects focus on innovative community-based care topics (e.g. collaborative approaches in care, new care professions and roles), with the goal to increase access and quality of care. Research topics for instance are compassionate communities, community health workers, dementia-care for older migrants, and meaningful care.
As housing is one of the most important social determinants for continuing to live independently and to age in place, the third research theme focuses on the quality of housing and the living environment. Research topics for instance are innovative types of housing (e.g. cohousing), housing design and renovation, housing careers and sense of home, age-friendly environments and the physical design of the neighbourhood.
The three research lines are underpinned by 4 common values and visions with recurring elements that characterise our research.
- The importance of the neighbourhood: In order to understand the factors that influence wellbeing and quality of life of older people, we often use the socio-ecological model considering the complex interplay between individual, relationship, community, and societal factors. Although all systems are important, we often emphasise the local environment and neighbourhood for the well-being and quality of life of older people. Whether it is volunteering, elder abuse, social exclusion or care, the neighbourhood matters to older people.
- Life-course approach: early life experiences are critical for future life chances and the consequences of certain individual differences earlier in the life course reach well into later life. In order to understand our research topics, we need to take earlier life events, transitions and trajectories into account.
- Attention to exclusion, disadvantage and inequalities: in our research we pay particular attention for those in vulnerable and disadvantaged situations. This implies we work emancipatory and transformative. Therefore, we explore the structural and systemic changes needed in order to reach sustainable change. Overall, we work from a strengths-based perspective on people in disadvantaged situations.
- Transformative, participatory research frameworks: Our research methodology centers the experiences of marginalised communities, giving voice to the participants (not doing research about but doing research with), including analysis of power differentials that have led to marginalization. Building on transformative research frameworks (e.g., community-based participatory research, peer-research, decolonising methodologies), the team employs a broad methods toolbox ranging from classical approaches (e.g., large-scale cross-sectional surveys) to more creative methods (e.g., photo-voice, walk-along). Participation of research subjects, co-creation, giving voice to silenced voices are key. In its research methodology, the research team focuses on processes for change: research focuses less on predefined outcomes but more on the (community) development processes. What works, for whom, under which circumstances?