WE-EngAGE (Wellbeing, Engagement, Ageing)

Explores the impact of social leisure engagement on the psychological, cognitive, and physical wellbeing of older adults.

Ageing poses challenges to one’s everyday life due to an increased risk of depression, cognitive decline, and deteriorating physical health, which often interplay with reduced social leisure engagement. Social leisure engagement refers to a person’s voluntary participation in cultural or community activities that include or facilitate social interaction, including activities such as participation in social clubs, exercise groups, volunteering, and arts and cultural engagement. Social leisure engagement is considered a modifiable factor that can support healthy ageing, as it contains multiple active ingredients (components that make up an activity) that can activate various mechanisms which connect social leisure engagement to wellbeing improvements.

WE-EngAGE explores the impact of social leisure engagement on the psychological, cognitive, and physical wellbeing of older adults (aged 55+), seeking to identify ways to increase social leisure engagement.   

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), this research will answer three main research questions:  

  1. What are the long-term effects of social leisure engagement on older people’s wellbeing? 
  2. Are the associations between engagement and wellbeing universal across different groups of older adults? 
  3. How can we support older adults to engage in social leisure activities? 

Research methods

This project will utilise a mixed-methods approach. Quantitatively, we will analyse two British longitudinal datasets – the National Child Development Study (aka 1958 British Cohort Study) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Qualitatively, we will conduct focus groups with older adults to explore enablers and barriers to social leisure engagement. We will work in partnership with a cross-sector advisory group, including older adults with lived experience and individuals/organisations working across research, practice, and policy to help refine research directions, ensuring impact activities reach wider and more diverse audiences. 


Across a wide range of planned dissemination activities, this project aims to support cross-sector initiatives that allow and encourage older adults to uptake social leisure engagement and, in doing so, support their wellbeing in later life. 


UKRI Ageing Research Development Awards

Programme Area

Behavioural Science, Epidemiology



Principal Investigator

Dr Hei Wan (Karen) Mak


Saoirse Finn
Dr Katey Warran, University of Edinburgh
Prof Daisy Fancourt


University of Edinburgh



Key Contact


Advisory Group

Prof Helen Chatterjee (UCL & UKRI Health Disparities and Mobilising Community Assets Lead); Michael Cheung (Lived Experience Researcher); Anjie Chhapia (Lived Experience Researcher); Beverley Chipp (Lived Experience Researcher); Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca (National Academy for Social Prescribing); Rosie Dow (Arts and Health Consultant); Dr Robyn Dowlen (University of Manchester & Chair of the British Society of Gerontology Creative Ageing SIG); Jackie Hardy (Lived Experience Researcher); Stephen Jeffreys (Lived Experience Researcher); Dr Harriet Radermacher (u3a – University of the Third Age); Martin Robertson (Lived Experience Researcher); Janet Seale (Lived Experience Researcher); Sudhir Shah (Lived Experience Researcher); Prof Andrew Steptoe (PI of ELSA, UCL); and Dr Liz Thackray (u3a – University of the Third Age)