Growing older in coastal communities

Intergenerational connections have been lost through the out-migration of younger people with higher level qualifications and the selective repopulation of many of England’s coastal areas with older migrants. While many people who have migrated to the coast to retire are active, healthy and wealthy and remain economically active or involved in voluntary activities, others do not enjoy good health, are not wealthy and do not have good social networks. As risks of frailty and multi-morbidity increase with age, this means that older coastal residents (whether migrants or those whose children have moved elsewhere) are at risk of both isolation and, due to the very low threshold for eligibility for social care, a lack of support in daily living activities.

The University of Plymouth’s Centre for Health Technology has implemented a large programme of research exploring the potential to develop e-health interventions targeting the growing population of older people, particularly in Cornwall, a peripheral and coastal local authority with high levels of deprivation.

From the use of VR equipment, gaming and fitness wearables through supporting the adoption of tele-rehabilitation solutions to adapting and personalising live radio for people with dementia, our focus has been very much on older people living in isolated communities or alone.

We are also involved in work to build research capacity among our local social care practitioners so that the social care workforce can better understand good (and poor) practice and improve service delivery for vulnerable older people in the South West.

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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.

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Media highlights

Digital inequity: a major health risk in coastal Britain

“Coastal communities [...] include many of the most beautiful, vibrant and historically important places in the country. They also have some of the worst health outcomes in England, with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.”
      – Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2021

Researchers at the University of Plymouth, including Professor Ray Jones and Professor Sheena Asthana – who contributed to the Chief Medical Officer's Report – and Professor Katharine Willis have been working to address digital inequities and poor health outcomes in our coastal communities.

Read more about the University of Plymouth's work targetting digital inequity