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Older people and engagement in neighbourhood renewal: A qualitative study of Stoke-on-Trent

This thesis investigates older people and engagement in neighbourhood renewal. Since 1997, the Labour Government has shown concerted efforts to regenerate the most deprived urban neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom, and moved towards putting communities in control of local governance to shape these efforts. Within the context of earlier research reporting that older people were often missing as beneficiaries of, and participants in, regeneration programmes, this study examines older people’s participation in contemporary regeneration.

Drawing on a review of existing literature and national regeneration policy, the study addresses three research questions: 1) what is the impact of urban regeneration policies on older people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods from the perspective of both older people and local professionals and policy-makers? 2) to what extent are older people involved in the process of urban regeneration? and, 3) how do older people perceive the potential benefits and disadvantages of neighbourhood renewal?

Using Stoke-on-Trent as a case study, a detailed review of the city’s community and regeneration strategies was conducted. Interviews, guided by a narrative inquiry approach, were subsequently undertaken with twenty-one professionals and policy-makers implementing urban regeneration, and twenty older people living in three of the city’s most deprived neighbourhoods.

Thematic content analysis of transcribed data using NVivo software, suggests that older people’s engagement in political activity and regeneration policy-making is relatively limited and restricted. Older people tended to be engaged more in their role as service users. However, in this study age discrimination, and a lack of older people’s personal skills capacity appeared to hinder engagement. Engagement was also inhibited by Stoke-on-Trent’s requirement to address mandatory social deprivation targets; the complexity of engagement procedures adopted by organisations implementing regeneration; and by discontinuities around both feedback, and connections with third sector and community groups. The thesis concludes with suggested recommendations to address such weaknesses.

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