Evidencing the Social Return on Investment of Age-Friendly Communities
People are living longer. Yet for many, the opportunities for a longer life are lost due to poor health and difficulty remaining involved in society. Many places across the UK aim to be ‘age-friendly through improved housing, transport and access to social activities to help older people to stay well and enjoy fulfilling lives. Understanding how such initiatives work, and whether investing in them is worthwhile is essential for their success and sustainability. Currently, we know little of their effect on health and even less of their value to communities. This project will assess Age-friendly City and Community (AFCC) projects using a Social Return on Investment (SROI) framework across four selected sites in England: Liverpool, Suffolk, Kelsall and Buckden. We will measure the social, economic and environmental values they generate – the social value – and compare this with their monetary costs.
SROI comprises several steps, each represented, in our study, by six complementary work packages (WP). We will systematically review what previous studies have found about AFCCs, and list the health and wellbeing outcomes used to measure their impact (WP1). In each site (WP2), we will identify two to three priority age-friendly areas of work (e.g. transport, leisure), and select two to three specific interventions across all sites to evaluate. We will identify the health and wellbeing outcomes prioritised by each community, and decide how to measure these. This will be achieved with document analysis, community surveys, interviews and consensus methods with practice stakeholders and members of the public, with further validation with national stakeholders.
The social value of priority outcomes (in £) will be calculated using a Discrete Choice Experiment (WP3). A representative panel of older adults will be presented hypothetical communities and asked to state their preferences. These will be recorded in a ‘social value bank’. We will also calculate the cost of the selected two to three interventions across the sites (WP4). This, and the total value of their outcomes, will serve to estimate their SROI (WP5). A final consultation (WP6) will help design a resource for practice stakeholders to assess the SROI of AFCC initiatives.
All data collection and meetings will be conducted in adherence to relevant Covid-19 rules and guidance. We will adjust our approach where necessary as these changes over time while paying particular attention to the fact that the study involves older and potentially vulnerable adults.
This proposal was informed by extensive consultation with PPI contributors who advised on the research direction throughout. They will be consulted throughout, as will members of the public in the research sites. Two members of the public will be on the study Advisory Group and offered training and involvement in dissemination activities.
Findings will be published in journals and presented at conferences. Reports for each study site, briefing papers, social media, public engagement events, and a video will be used to reach target audiences through our practitioner-focused, academic and public-facing networks.
This study will provide evidence of the health-related outcomes and social value of AFCC initiatives through site-specific evaluations; support decision making with an accessible bank of social values, and provide a stepped approach to assess the SROI of AFCC initiatives. Case studies will exemplify how the public and practice-based stakeholders shape AFC initiatives. It will make a robust methodological contribution to evidencing the social value of AFCC initiatives, as well as public health interventions generally. These outputs will address important evidence gaps, build capacity for evaluation and inform policy and practice designed to support ageing well.