Healthy Ageing through Innovation in Rural Europe (HAIRE)


Healthy Ageing through Innovation in Rural Europe (HAIRE) is a £4.5 million project that works across eight rural communities – two in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK (Feock in Cornwall and Rother in East Sussex) to improve health and care quality and help to create an economy of wellbeing.

Including 15 partners and running from 2020-2022, the project will make use of the University's knowledge and experience in health innovation projects across rural communities in the south-west of England.


Isolated rural communities

Rural communities with an ever-increasing ageing population across Europe are facing significant health and care challenges. This includes poor public transport, lack of facilities, out-migration of young people and fragmented health and social care services. This provides an environment of increased pressure on health services.

Over the next 30 years, it is predicted that the numbers of over 60s will double.

HAIRE recognises that more is to be done to promote healthy ageing in rural communities and older people could hold the key to revitalising rural communities. HAIRE aims to empower older people to define the support they need and participate in the design and delivery of services.

The project is funded by Interreg 2 Seas, which promotes territorial cooperation between the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

'Guided conversations'

HAIRE will use an innovative structured technique known as 'guided conversations' as part of a toolkit designed to find out what older people in rural communities want and need. Researchers will then help communities design and set up solutions to their problems using the voluntary, public and private sectors. The project will encourage rural and coastal communities to:

  • define what support they need
  • participate in the co-design and delivery of services
  • develop cost-effective solutions for themselves to reduce loneliness and improve quality of life, health and wellbeing.

Initiatives might include community transport schemes, starting new clubs and societies, and bringing together the younger and older generations. Volunteers will be trained to identify their underused community assets and networks and conduct guided conversations with about 600 people (aged 60+ and no longer in employment) across the eight communities in the study, finding out how people feel about their lives and the place in which they live.

<p>Occupational therapist works with an elderly woman.<br></p>
<p>Home healthcare worker helping elderly man with walker.<br></p>
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Female doctor, elderly woman patient in nursing home. Digital tablet

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Transforming lives through health innovation

The University will lead the development of a toolkit – a set of steps that could be used in similar communities to identify innovations that will improve people’s health and wellbeing. 

Led by Dr Arunangsu Chatterjee, the University team will train local volunteers to develop knowledge about social innovation that will spread from the project areas to neighbouring communities. The aim of this is to foster a sustainable economy of wellbeing in rural and coastal communities'.

HAIRE will build upon Centre of Health Technology projects like EPIC and  Innovation for Healthy Ageing to expand the concept of 'social prescribing' using community platforms beyond the South West. 

Social prescribing involves health professionals enabling patients and the public to improve their mental and physical health through signposting to social activities, such as joining a walking group.

Associate Professor of Digital Health and Education, Dr Arunangsu Chatterjee is the University’s lead for HAIRE. He said:

“HAIRE provides us with an exciting opportunity to collaborate across the channel with countries facing similar challenges. The project will enable us to share and learn from each other how best to co-design localised solutions to improve health and wellbeing in our ageing communities.”

Centre for Health Technology

Bringing together digital health and health technology expertise from across the University to drive the development, evaluation and implementation of innovative technologies, products, services and approaches to transform health and social care.

Find out more about the Centre for Health Technology