Reflections from the ‘Hold the door open’ project: Inviting older adults across the UK to shape dissemination of health research findings

Taru Silvonen*, Carmel B McGrath, Anne Murray, Hannah Christensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This project sought to expand patient and public involvement (PPI) practices to the development of research finding dissemination with people aged 55+ years. The project is innovative due to its UK-wide approach and use of PPI to plan better ways to share findings of health research with older adults, extending PPI beyond research project initiation to support dissemination activities.

The aim of this study is to understand how to develop effective public engagement activities with older adults to disseminate findings of health research. We hope to promote greater inclusivity and advance our understanding of this demographic.

This project combined three approaches: (i) an online questionnaire to ask what activities older adults enjoy; (ii) online planning workshops seeking public contributors' input in event planning and (iii) community events to share research findings and raise awareness of PPI. Activities were carried out in Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow and Tewkesbury.

The planning workshops clarified that in-person activities and offering options for activities were important. Based on feedback from our contributors, all our events focused around a talk and question and answer session. Other short activities included light exercise and a writing activity.

Our multiphase approach helped us develop informative activities that reflected the questionnaire results and the feedback from the workshops, as we tailored our events to each location. A phased approach allowed both researchers and contributors to gradually deepen their understanding.

Further awareness raising is needed to develop the role older adults currently hold in health research activities. Working closely with existing communities can help broaden diversity.

Patient or Public Contribution
Thirty-three public contributors helped facilitate this project. Two of these also contributed to this article by writing a reflection of their experiences, one of whom also provided feedback for the article.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13928
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Despite the aging population in the United Kingdom, people aged 55+ years have been underrepresented in health research, emphasising the importance to focus on this demographic group. Patient and public involvement (PPI) can support further inclusion of older adults in health research by increasing awareness of ways to get involved beyond conventional research participant roles. PPI is a mandatory element of research funded by the National Health Service, the National Institute for Health and Care Research and the Health Research Authority. Effective inclusion of patients, service users, carers and members of the public in the broad spectrum of health research is important for ethical reasons, as well as to support the generation of research ideas and accuracy of research. Limited direct feedback from people aged 55+ makes it challenging to create appropriately tailored ways to involve older adults in health research‐related activities. 1 2 3,4 5 6 7,8

Funding Information:
We would like to thank all public contributors, members of the public and community organisations that have made this project possible. The advice from Dr Shoba Dawson, University of Bristol, and Dr Andy Gibson, University of West of England, has been invaluable. T. S., C. M. and H. C. would like to acknowledge support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation (HPRU BSE) at the University of Bristol. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care or UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). This work was funded by the NIHR HPRU BSE at the University of Bristol, in partnership with the UKHSA. H. C. and T. S. were also funded through the NIHR (UK) Career Development Fellowship (grant number CDF‐2018‐11‐ST2‐015).

Funding Information:
This PPI project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Behavioural Science and Evaluation (BSE) at the University of Bristol. The project focused on developing dissemination activities with older adults combining three activity types: (i) a questionnaire to ask what kind of activities people aged 55+ might enjoy, (ii) four planning workshops and (iii) four public dissemination events. Our four locations were: Belfast (Northern Ireland, NI), Cardiff (Wales), Glasgow (Scotland) and Tewkesbury (England). We felt it was important to carry out activities across the United Kingdom to support disseminating findings from our UK‐wide research project ‘What does vaccination mean to people aged 55+?’. The South West England location, Tewkesbury, was selected following feedback from the HPRU BSE Public Involvement Strategy Group, which questioned our plans to hold activities only in major cities. Major cities were otherwise selected in an effort to limit travel requirements. 19 20

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Health Expectations published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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