Written by Saoirse Finn, Research Fellow in Epidemiology & Statistics

The WE-EngAge project (Wellbeing, Engagement, Ageing) focuses on leisure activities and psychological, cognitive and physical wellbeing in older adults. As part of the project, we are working with a cross-sector and interdisciplinary advisory to collaborate with us on the study’s development, delivery, and dissemination. Advisory groups have become increasingly popular in recent years to ensure that research is more inclusive and founded upon diverse perspectives. The expert advisory group will help shape our research plans and direction for our two-year project. The advisory includes insight from lived experience, research, practice, and policy with expertise across ageing, health, arts and leisure, community approaches, and social prescribing. 



On 30th January 2024, we hosted our first online advisory meeting. We began by introducing ourselves and then the research team shared an overview of the WE-EngAge project, what we have achieved since the project started (September 2023), and the project’s next steps. The advisory included presentations from the team and opportunities for collaboration and discussion.

Dr Karen Mak (Principal Investigator of WE-EngAge) started off the advisory with a presentation, defining subject-specific terminology, and then outlining our three core research questions: 

  • Q1: What are the long-term effects of social leisure engagement on older people’s wellbeing?  
  • Q2: Are effects universal across different groups of older adults?  
  • Q3: How can we support older adults in engaging in leisure activities?  


Our methodology

Karen also gave an overview of our methods relating to our i) quantitative data analysis using secondary data and our ii) mixed-methods primary data collection (you can read more about them here). I then gave a snapshot of our quantitative findings (Q1 and Q2) using the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. I have been exploring the longitudinal associations between leisure activities (e.g., going to museums) and psychological wellbeing. We then opened the floor to discuss the analysis design and interpretation of the results. We spoke about how some leisure activities may not be accessible to everyone and how other aspects of people’s lives (e.g., caring, retirement) could play a role in facilitating time to engage. 

Dr Katey Warran (Co-Investigator) then spoke about the plans for our primary data collection (Q3), focusing on the qualitative aspect. In this section, Katey gave examples of the theoretical models we have drawn upon to create our draft topic guides (list of questions) for the focus groups to explore the factors that might act as barriers or enablers to leisure engagement for older adults (e.g., individual-level factors such as health and neighbourhood factors, such as what leisure activities are locally available). Using a mixture of participatory activity via digital tools and audio- and comment-based discussions, the advisory highlighted what they thought were the key factors to consider. This included discussing the appropriateness of our language and frameworks and exploring ways to make our data collection tools as inclusive as possible. We also examined the challenges of recruiting those who are underserved and socially disadvantaged.


Get involved

Sharing our project updates with the advisory was exciting, and hearing their insights was invaluable. The advisory will give their feedback over email on the entire topic guide draft and our primary data collection survey; so we can then tailor them accordingly before we start recruitment of research participants in Spring. We plan to host our next advisory group meeting in late Autumn, where we will review the project’s progress and plan dissemination opportunities from the findings. 

We will be recruiting for our survey and focus groups in Spring, so if you’re aged 55 and over and want to take part, or even to just keep updated on our research, please sign up for the SBB newsletter or follow SBB on Twitter/X. In the meantime, you can read more about WE-EngAge here.  


Please note that all lived experience advisors were reimbursed for their time as per NIHR guidelines.