£2m research to study impact of place and stigma on older disabled adults

£2m research to study impact of place and stigma on older disabled adults

Dr Vikki McCall

New research exploring the impact of stigma on fuelling inequalities experienced by UK disabled adults in later life, to include a contribution from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, has secured funding of £2 million.

Led by University of Stirling housing expert Dr Vikki McCall, the study ‘Intersectional Stigma of Place-based Ageing (ISPA)’, will investigate and identify how stigma related to age, disability, and where someone lives, creates additional barriers for older people living with sensory and mobility impairments.

Supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – part of UK Research and Innovation – the five-year project will result in researchers working in collaboration with disabled adults to use their findings to develop guidance on the actions and modifications required in people’s homes and environments to allow this group to age well in their communities.

The project will also build an ‘Inclusive Living Alliance’ – a UK-wide network made up of organisations from housing, health, social care and the third sector – to road test this guidance and focus on long-term policy change. Fifteen project partners have already signed up to the Alliance, including the Housing LIN and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations.

Dr McCall, senior lecturer in Social Policy and Housing at the University of Stirling, said: “Neighbourhoods unfairly tarred with a reputation of being ‘undesirable’ are often some of the most multi-deprived areas that carry a sense of stigma linked to exclusion, poverty and marginality.

“Little is known about individuals who live in stigmatised areas who are also experiencing stigma related to disability and/or ageing. Furthermore, older disabled adults are under-represented and often excluded from the practical processes that support them.

“This research project will improve our understanding of how social and economic inequalities affect people in later life and identify and implement practical ways to improve inclusivity and tackle stigmatising processes.”

Previous research has shown that disabled people in England, Scotland and Wales are more likely to live in deprived areas compared to people who are not disabled, and in Wales, disabled people make up 1 in 3 of those living in areas of multiple deprivation.

Dr McCall added: “We know that disabled people with pre-existing conditions, living in the most deprived areas are particularly vulnerable to experiencing increased inequalities, including poor housing, ill-health, loneliness and ageism.

“The current approaches to tackling stigma focus on individual stigma – raising awareness about discrimination against disabled people for example – which is important but far from sufficient, and we know very little about how stigma intersects in different ways.

“In order to develop a better approach, we need to understand how stigma attached to where people live, disability, and ageing intersect to give nuanced insights to the structures and systems that drive exclusion and to tackle inequalities experienced by older disabled adults.”

The research will be carried out by Dr McCall in partnership with University of Stirling colleagues, Dr Kim McKee, Professor Alasdair Rutherford and Dr Dianne Theakstone, and Dr Louise Reid of the University of St Andrews, Professor Rose Gilroy of Newcastle University and Professor David Manley from the University of Bristol. The project will launch in September 2022, with the final report expected in 2027.

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