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Social Innovation with Age UK Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

6 January 2020

2 minutes to read

Social Innovation with Age UK Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

The University of Exeter’s Social Innovation Group (SIG) has been working in partnership with Age UK Cornwall and Isles of Scilly since 2009 conducting research into how volunteers and the older people can be best supported in Cornwall’s rural communities.

Through the delivery of a variety of projects, Dr Michael Leyshon and Professor Catherine Leyshon, co-directors of SIG, have discovered innovative solutions to loneliness and isolation amongst the older people by building community capacity for volunteering and social opportunities. The research has also revealed the importance of place-based, person-centred approaches to care and Age UK Cornwall have reworked their training materials for volunteers as a result.

Living Well

In the Living Well project, which ran from 2013 to 2016, Age UK sought to reduce loneliness and isolation and improve the wellbeing of older people by pairing them with volunteers. SIG researchers evaluated this approach and researched how Age UK Cornwall could best support and work with its volunteers. Using this research in Cornwall’s rural communities, Age UK Cornwall had the evidence they needed to rethink the way volunteers, alongside health and social care practitioners, provide care.

Living Well supported older people with long-term health conditions who were at risk of repeat emergency hospital admission. By providing a tailored package of support unique to each person, helping them to manage their health conditions and reengage with their communities, Living Well reduced emergency hospital admissions by 37.4 per cent and saved £1,500 per person per annum across the health and social care system in Cornwall.

The research also revealed that volunteer recruitment was hindered by complicated and time-consuming recruitment processes which led volunteer managers at Age UK Cornwall to change their volunteer recruitment and training policy.

The Living Well Tea Party


The Exeter team have just secured a grant to deliver the Healthy Ageing through Innovation in Rural Europe (HAIRE) project, a collaboration with Age UK East Sussex, Voluntary Action and the NHS, which will empower older people in rural areas of the UK, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. HAIRE will test and develop systems which allow older people to actively participate in the design and delivery of health and wellbeing services and to develop solutions to reduce loneliness and improve quality of life with the support of the voluntary, public and private sectors. The project starts in January 2020 and runs until September 2022.

The Social Innovation Group is a research group at the University of Exeter which brings together academics from a range of disciplines to conduct research into place-based and person-centered issues. Their work helps local and regional organisations realise their potential as positive change-makers in their communities and improve people’s wellbeing.

Read more about the work of Exeter’s Social Innovation Group.


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