ReViewing Physical Activity in Older Adulthood (Zinc Catalyst)

Project: Research council

Project Details


Increasing physical activity in older age helps to reduce, delay or even reverse the development of chronic diseases, and can improve mobility, enhance wellbeing and reduce social isolation. However, most older adults don't get enough physical activity to benefit. Some of this may be due to negative social stereotypes about what older adults can and cannot do, and depictions of older people as frail and incapable. Negative stereotypes make older adults feel less welcome or accepted in the spaces where activity happens, deter physical activity and reduce social support. They can also deter the providers of products and services that promote physical activity from catering for older adults.

This project aims to challenge and reverse negative stereotyping of ageing and physical activity through creating 'trigger films' to spark a societal shift in opinions and attitudes, prompting people to see things differently. This needs action at a whole-society level. Cultural and social changes in attitudes and norms in other stigmatised groups have been influenced by specific, memorable moments that caught public attention. For example, TV shows with provocative storylines about homophobia and mental health, or David Attenborough's Blue Planet triggering combined public, policy and industry action to reduce plastic use.

The project will run in three phases; Phase 1 will involve the development of provocative film content, Phase 2 will explore how we can use this to elicit stereotypes and challenging conversations, and in Phase 3 we will work with stakeholders to explore how this could be implemented at scale.

In Phase 1 we will recruit 6 multi-generational groups of family or friends from different segments of society, and work with them to film their experiences of navigating physical activity settings that put them out of their comfort zones together. We will work with creative industries to capture footage that is novel, surprising and ideally that provokes emotional reactions. In Phase 2, we will bring members of the public into the TV studios at the University of Bath to film them watching the prototype films, and capture their unguarded initial responses to what they see. Selected exerts of Phase 1 and Phase 2 footage will be professionally edited together to form a final trigger film (or films). Editorial decisions will be made in collaboration with creative industry partners and representatives from the families involved in Phase 1; the aim will be to maximise entertainment value and novelty, while still reflecting how older adults would like to be represented and avoiding the endorsement of negative stereotypes.

In Phase 3 we will run workshops with stakeholders including industry (creative, sports, activity, health and other), governmental and third sector organisations, and the public to explore how we could best use and develop the trigger films at scale to start challenging social stereotypes. We will use the evidence generated through this final process as a basis for championing the approach beyond the lifespan of the present study, to identify some early adopters for further development and application of the concept.
Effective start/end date1/09/2130/11/22


  • Economic and Social Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Development studies
  • Information and communication technologies
  • Psychology
  • Information and Knowledge Management


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