Connecting Research with Social Responsibility: Developing ‘Age-Friendly’ Communities in Manchester, UK

  • Tine BuffelEmail author
  • Julian Skyrme
  • Chris Phillipson
Part of the Quality of Life in Asia book series (QLAS, volume 8)


This chapter aims to explore ways of addressing the goals of ‘university social responsibility’ through research activities. It develops the argument that research can play a dual role in producing findings which are beneficial to society but which also empower individuals and local communities through their direct involvement in the research process. The chapter starts with setting out how the University of Manchester defines and approaches ‘social responsibility’. Second, it presents a research project which illustrates this approach. The study has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a best practice example of involving older people as co-investigators in researching and developing what it terms ‘age-friendly’ cities. The chapter then discusses the objectives of the study, the process of involving and training older people to become co-researchers, the research outcomes, and the impact of the research. Finally, the chapter concludes with a discussion of the lessons learned from the project, and suggests ways forward for (re-) connecting research with the goal of social responsibility.


Social responsibility Research impact Population ageing Urbanisation Age-friendly 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester; the Age-Friendly Manchester team at the City Council, Chorlton Good Neighbours, Whalley Range Community Forum, the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing and all of the co-researchers and participants in the study.


  1. Academic Ranking of World Universities. (2016). ARWU World University Rankings 2016. Retrieved from
  2. Allen, P., Brown, A., Camic, P.M., Cutler, D., Harvey, L., Parsons, M.P, Sweeney, R., Ward, E., & Zeilig, H. (2015). Becoming a dementia-friendly arts venue: A practical guide. Retrieved from
  3. Alzheimer’s Society. (n.d.). Dementia Friends. Retrieved from
  4. Buffel, T., Phillipson, C., & Scharf, T. (2012). Ageing in urban environments: Developing age-friendly cities. Critical Social Policy, 32(4), 597–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buffel, T., Phillipson, C., & Scharf, T. (2013). Experiences of neighbourhood exclusion and inclusion among older people living in deprived inner-city areas in Belgium and England. Ageing & Society, 33(1), 89–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buffel, T., McGarry, P., Phillipson, C., De Donder, L., Dury, S., De Witte, N., et al. (2014). Developing age-friendly cities: Case studies from Brussels and Manchester and implications for policy and practice. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 26(1–2), 52–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buffel, T. (Ed.). (2015). Researching age-friendly communities. Stories from older people as co-investigators. Manchester: The University of Manchester Library.Google Scholar
  8. Buffel, T., & Hewson, C. (2015). Researching age-friendly cities. A film funded by the school of social sciences, The University of Manchester. Retrieved from
  9. Buffel, T., & Phillipson, C. (2016). Can global cities be ‘age-friendly cities’? Urban development and ageing populations. Cities, 55, 94–100.Google Scholar
  10. Crane, A., Matten, D., & Spence, L. J. (2013). Corporate social responsibility: Readings and cases in a global context. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Epstein, M. J., & Roy, M. J. (2001). Sustainability in action: Identifying and measuring the key performance drivers. Long Range Planning, 34(5), 585–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fitzgerald, K. G., & Caro, F. G. (Eds.). (2016). International perspectives on age-friendly cities. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Friedman, M. (1962). Capitalism and freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Jones, D. R. (1988). The origins of civic universities: Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Kesby, M., Kindon, S., & Pain, R. (2005). Participatory research. In R. Flowerdew & M. Martin (Eds.), Methods in human geography (pp. 144–166). London: Pearson.Google Scholar
  16. Kindon, S., Pain, R., & Kesby, M. (2007). Participatory action research approaches and methods. Connecting people, participation and place. London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Marsh, C. (1985). Informants, respondents and citizens. In M. Bulmer (Ed.), Essays on the history of British sociological research. London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Manchester Policy Blogs. (2014). How can we make our towns and cities more age-friendly? Retrieved from
  19. OECD. (2015). Ageing in cities. Paris: OECD. doi: 10.1787/9789264231160-en.Google Scholar
  20. O’Reilly, K. (2012). Ethnographic methods. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Ray, M. (2007). Redressing the balance? The participation of older people in research. In M. Bernard & T. Scharf (Eds.), Critical perspectives on ageing societies (pp. 73–88). Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sanz, M. F., Ferrer, J. G., Figueroa, C. V., Ferrandis, E. D., & Rigia, F. R. (2015). Guidelines for coproducing age-friendly environments with older people. Brussel: AFE-INNOVNET.Google Scholar
  23. Shura, R., Siders, R. A., & Dannefer, D. (2010). Culture change in long-term care: Participatory action research and the role of the resident. The Gerontologist, 51(12), 212–225.Google Scholar
  24. The University of Manchester. (2012). Manchester 2020. The University of Manchester’s strategic plan. Retrieved from
  25. The University of Manchester. (n.d.). Outstanding local community collaboration - Dr Tine Buffel. Retrieved from
  26. The University of Manchester. (2017). Addressing global inequalities. Retrieved from
  27. United Nations. (2014a). Concise report on the world population situation in 2014. New York: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division.Google Scholar
  28. United Nations. (2014b). World urbanization prospects. New York: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.Google Scholar
  29. World Health Organization. (2002). Active aging: A policy framework. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  30. World Health Organization. (2007). Global age-friendly cities: A guide. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  31. World Health Organization. (2015). World report on ageing and health. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  32. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Age-friendly world - Adding life to years. Retrieved from
  33. Ziegler, F., & Scharf, T. (2013). Community-based participatory action research: Opportunities and challenges for critical gerontology. In J. Baars, J. Dohmen, A. Grenier, & C. Phillipson (Eds.) Ageing, meaning and social structure. Connecting critical and humanistic gerontology (pp. 157–180). Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Sciences, ESRC Future Leader ResearcherThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.The University of ManchesterManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations