Validating aspirations of older people with high support needs

Katz, Jeanne; Holland, Caroline and Peace, Sheila (2011). Validating aspirations of older people with high support needs. In: British Society of Gerontology 40th Annual Conference: "Understanding and Promoting the Values of Older Age", 5-7 Jul 2011, Plymouth, UK.



Much has been written by policy makers, think tanks, practitioners, gerontologists and others about the importance of involving older people in deciding what is in their best interests in relation to their well being and care. The ‘Better Life’ programme funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation emphasises the increasing diversity amongst older people in the UK who have high support needs: for example differing lifestyles, past experiences, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, financial and other resources, family and network composition, education. They might face additional challenges resulting from complex health conditions as well as discrimination.

Within this ‘Better Life’ programme, The Open University team were tasked to focus on ascertaining whether older (and some younger) people with high support needs (PHSN) would validate aspirations and values previously identified in studies in what has been a generally under-researched area. Additionally it was important to explore whether individual OPHSNs might express previously unknown values or aspirations. This paper identifies some of the challenges of a) finding appropriate respondents who are not part of networks but have high support needs and b) interviewing people from different backgrounds with a wide range of high support needs, including severe communication or sensory difficulties. The Facets of Life Wheel (Peace, Holland and Kellaher, 2006) was adapted for this purpose and interviews were video and/or audio recorded. The paper will focus on the process of exploring values and aspirations with OPHSN who may have very limited experience of expressing their views.

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