Connecting through culture as we age: Digital Innovation for Healthy Ageing.

Go Home

Screen Reader

Our Mission

We want to increase participation in social, digital and cultural life for all as we age. Our aim is to improve the quality of life for older populations, particularly those that are disabled, or racially or socio-economically minoritised.

Concluding in March 2024, this three year UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge funded project explored how and why we take part in arts and culture as we get older. We were interested in how participation in all forms of arts and culture, particularly those accessed digitally, can influence our wellbeing and feelings of social connection as we age.

Working alongside disabled older adults and those that identify as socioeconomically and racially minoritized we co-designed new arts and cultural experiences. Our inclusive digital innovation process encouraged cross sectoral collaborations in designing new products, services and experiences, and supported creative industries to grow and to better understand diverse older adults. 

More About The Healthy Ageing Challenge

Research Digest

Older people – culture, community, connection

The video above is a trailer for our research digest, in which we explore what the cultural landscape looks like for older people and how it can support them to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives as they age. This research digest presents a collaborative review of the literature relating to the value of cultural participation on wellbeing and feelings of social connection as we age.

Explore our Research Digest Here

Project Prototypes

Following a 6-month period of preparation and a year-long stage of delivery, our six prototype teams have now exhibited their work at our Project Showcase.

These projects are the result of a process of co-design including Connecting Through Culture co-researchers, creative technologists, artists, designers and our charity and community partners.

Click the link below to explore the six projects through text, photos and video.

More About The Prototypes

Co-researcher Film Series

During the last year of Connecting through Culture there have been many discussions with and between co-researchers on personal creative passions, things that people would like to try, things that people would like to say, and participation through a wide variety of platforms and media – online and offline.

As part of the lifecourse work which is intrinsic to this project, members of the research team have also thought about their own histories, passions, skills. Mine happens to be low-resource filmmaking. And so, an idea emerged organically through conversations – why not support the creation of mini-films by co-researchers.

To view our co-researcher films, click the link below:

Co-researcher Films

The University of Bristol Team

We are pleased to introduce the Connecting Through Culture As We Age team representing the University of Bristol. We are an interdisciplinary team with experience encompassing arts and humanities, social and policy studies, computer science and human computer interaction.

An illustration of a lady (Helen) with a laptop, busy with work and, sitting on the ground of her room is shown.

Professor Helen Manchester

Principal Investigator

Helen is academic lead person for the project. She’s passionate about working with different partners, designing creative activities and methods and spending time with older people. When not at work she enjoys swimming outdoors, tending her garden and getting out of the city. As a lover of indie music her natural habitat is in the moshpit but kitchen dancing is more common these days.

An illustration of a lady (Ki) speaking at a podium to a room full of people is shown.

Professor Kirsten Cater


Ki is a Professor in computer science with oversight of the digital aspects of this project. She is passionate about designing new technologies that enhance people’s lives by working closely with users to understand their needs. When not working she loves going on long walks with her husband, two daughters, and golden retriever dog or pottering around in the garden.

An illustration of a man (Paul) dropping a microphone after performing is shown.

Dr Paul Clarke


Paul is a practitioner-researcher exploring the use of digital technologies in participatory and place-based performance, along with creative responses to archives. Over the last 20 years he has directed 25 works with Uninvited Guests, which have shown internationally and at major UK cultural institutions. A series of AHRC and JISC-funded research projects with the Theatre Collection contributed to scholarship around the relationship between performance and the archive and led to the co-edited book Artists in the Archive, published by Routledge in 2018. In light of pioneering work with site-specific theatre, interactive performance and emerging technologies, he was awarded a Bristol+Bath Creative R+D Fellowship on the Digital Placemaking Pathfinder.

An illustration of a man (Paul), sitting and reading a paper is shown.

Dr Paul Mitchell


Paul is a researcher in health economics at the University of Bristol. He will be involved in the evaluation of the demonstrator products developed during this project. He is a keen music and sports fan. He likes to go for walks whenever the weather allows for it.

An illustration of a lady (Kirsty) sitting down in front of a freshly painted webpage artwork is shown.

Dr Kirsty Sedgman


Kirsty is a Doctor of Audiences and theatre academic, fascinated with how different people make sense of and find value in cultural experiences. With two little boys, a cocker spaniel, and a couple of cute pet rats, she’s often too busy for hobbies – but she’s obsessed with books (both reading and writing them!), loves her electric bike, and can often be found talking nonsense on Twitter.

An illustration of a lady (Sarah) with a laptop, busy with work and, sitting at her desk is shown.

Sarah Cox

Project Coordinator

Sarah is the Project Coordinator and will be supporting the Connecting Through Culture team in the successful delivery of the project. She is based in the School of Education where she also has a departmental-wide research management role. Outside work she enjoys being active with surfing, swimming and jogging with her cocker spaniel dog all favourite pastimes.

An illustration of a man (Stuart) reclining while using a VR headset is shown.

Dr Stuart Gray

Research Associate

Stuart Gray is a researcher in human-computer interaction. At work he enjoys designing and developing technologies that improve people’s health and wellbeing – making games and tools that encourage players to eat better, harness their mental and emotional skills, take more exercise, and monitor they eyesight. In his free time, Stuart enjoys playing fetch with the dog, playing football, watching gritty crime TV shows, and is an enthusiast of owning and driving 90s Japanese cars.

An illustration of a man (Tim) standing and admiring three portrait art works is shown.

Dr Tim Senior

Research Associate

Tim Senior is Impact RA on Connecting through Culture jointly with Tot Foster. Tim is a cross-sector collaboration specialist, with extensive experience working across the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, Communities and Innovation. He is co-founder and research lead of supersum – the wicked problems agency (

An illustration of a lady (Karen) sitting on a pile of large books and reading a book of her own is shown.

Dr Karen Gray

Research Associate

Karen is a researcher on the project. She likes to garden (although she isn’t very good at it) and she does like to be beside the seaside, or a river, or a lake. She is a member of several book groups because that means she has to make time to read the books. She has her hands full with two teenage children and two cats.

An illustration of a lady (Tot) being edited within the frame of a digital video player is shown.

Dr Tot Foster

Research Associate

Tot Foster is a specialist in developing design-based methods and training in video production for charities and community organisations. In terms of practice she regularly works with communities across Bristol as an oral historian, whilst academically she is also part of a European research project on the development of digital skills for social innovation.

An illustration of a lady (Jenny) looking at an artwork.

Dr Jenny Barke

Research Associate

Jenny is a researcher on the project. She is a psychologist, and her role (shared with Alice) focuses on working with co-researchers across the project. Jenny is interested in how new knowledge is produced through creative collaboration and much of her work has been around social connectivity. Jenny loves travelling but when that’s not possible she’s generally found on the sofa happily watching box sets and Marvel movies with her family or playing board games.

An illustration of a lady (Alice) sitting on top of an abstract circular artwork is shown.

Dr Alice Willatt

Research Associate

Alice is a researcher on the project. She has a background in Organisation Studies with a focus on the voluntary and community sector. She enjoys developing collaborative research approaches that value the knowledge and experiences of the people and communities she researches with. Her role on the project involves building relationships with co-researchers and designing creative methods. In her spare time she loves to cook, travel, cycle and do some print making.

An illustration of a man (Nick) taking a photo.

Dr Nick Gray

Research Associate

Nick is a former English, drama and media teacher who enjoys making films in community settings. His research involves producing socially engaged documentaries with minoritised groups in Bristol. He is really interested in harnessing the power of new media for storytelling and building community. He is an avid collector of vinyl records (although he is currently on a strict ration of one per month!) and loves French movies of the 60s and 70s.

An illustration of a woman (Isabella) on the phone.

Isabella Floredin

Research Associate

Isabella is a researcher in health economics and involved in the evaluation of the prototypes developed during this project. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with friends, cooking and trying out new recipes.


Our Partners

The UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Healthy Ageing Challenge webpage.

We would like to thank UK Research and Innovation for funding this project as part of their Healthy Ageing Challenge. UKRI recognise that, “one in 12 people in the UK are over 75”, with this “rising to one in seven” by 2040. Moreover, “a third of children born now are expected to live to 100.” Meanwhile, “on average, people aged 65 will live just half of the rest of their life without disability.”

The Healthy Ageing Challenge aims for, “everyone to remain active, productive, independent and socially connected across generations for as long as possible to narrow the gap between the experiences of the richest and poorest”. As participants in the Healthy Ageing Challenge, the Connecting Through Culture As We Age project is contributing to the iniative’s ‘Community of Practice’ – a learning community
that connects other challenge participants and other relevant parties in order to support each others’ projects and research. It is a chance for these organisations to collaborate and share expertise, to learn from each others’ experiences within the UKRI-funded projects and wider work.

Black South West Network is a Black-led racial justice infrastructure organisation. Our over-arching strategic intent is to build dynamic, independent, and strong Black and Minoritised communities, businesses and organisations that are empowered to flourish while challenging systemic barriers and forging a true path for themselves.

We believe that only through this will we significantly address racial inequality. Our work falls into three broad areas – Cross-sector Enterprise and Innovation; Cultural Inclusion; Research and Knowledge – with Scrutiny and Accountability and Representation and Power as over-arching themes that cut through all of our work.

The Black South West Network logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Black South West Network webpage.
The Alive logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Alive webpage.

Alive is a charity dedicated to improving the quality of life of older people and their carers. Our vision is to help build a world where older people live lives full of joy, meaning and connection, and we are on a mission to prioritise health and wellbeing into later life.

Alive is one of the leading practitioners in the UK of meaningful activity for older people in care. Not only do we provide meaningful engagement in care homes, we provide community activity and support through our Meeting Centres and community gardening. We run a range of innovative community and care home projects, bringing art, sport, IT, gardening and intergenerational connections to older people. We work onlie with our subscription service Alive On Demand, and we deliver face-to-face in groups and in care homes. We believe in true co-production; our activity is shaped by older people and we engage using a variety of tools and techniques, tried and tested over the last 11 years.

WECIL (West of England Centre for Inclusive Living) is a Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) based in Bristol. Our mission is to help achieve a more inclusive society by representing the voices, wants and needs of disabled people across Bristol and the surrounding areas. The Social Model of Disability is at the core of everything we do. This model was developed in order to emphasise the role that society plays in creating barriers which exclude disabled people, and the role it can therefore play in breaking these down. As an anchor partner for “Connecting through Culture as we Age” we will help ensure that the voices of disabled people are represented and heard.

WECIL delivers high-quality services to support our vision of a more equal society. We work with anyone who identifies as disabled – people do not need to have a medical diagnosis to access our services. We offer a range of services to promote independent living and foster a sense of belonging and community across South Gloucestershire, Bristol & B&NES.

WECIL also seeks to influence others and raise awareness of the barriers that many disabled people face by training businesses and organisations to think about how they can improve their workplaces for both employees and customers. This can be part of their journey towards becoming Disability Confident.

The WECIL logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the WECIL webpage.

Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) is an arts-led charity based in South Bristol. KWMC’s mission is to achieve social, environmental and economic regeneration by involving the community in media activity, education and action.

We work with people to co-create learning spaces and we provide skills training and opportunities for all ages to experiment with ‘making and producing’. We develop opportunities for a wide range of people to ‘imagine’ the future, by testing ideas and technology within communities, public spaces and homes. We support people to celebrate and build on the assets within their neighbourhood, and we ensure there are meaningful opportunities for people to engage in arts and culture in Bristol – particularly those who have had the least opportunity.

Our digital manufacturing space KWMC The Factory, based at Filwood Green Business Park, supports a diverse community of creative practitioners, businesses and local residents to develop new skills, create and test new products and prototypes, and connect with others.

The Knowle West Media Centre logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Knowle West Media Centre webpage.
The Watershed logo is shown. Watershed hosts the Pervasive Media Studio. Click on this logo to open the Watershed webpage.

The Pervasive Media Studio hosts a brilliant community of over 100 artists, creative companies, technologists and academics exploring experience design and creative technology. It is a collaboration between Watershed, University of Bristol and UWE Bristol.

“It’s a world of amazingness and wonder. If Willy Wonka existed, he’d be jealous of it :)”– Kieron Kirkland, former Magician-in-residence

Our projects can be cultural or commercial and span play, robotics, location-based media, food, connected objects, interactive documentary and new forms of performance. We test our projects as early as possible and iterate. We are based within Watershed on Bristol’s historic dockside. We have an open plan Studio with a culture of generosity, curiosity and interuptability. We believe that by clustering together people from a broad range of backgrounds, with differing skills, experiences and opinions, all of our ideas get better.

Age UK Bristol works to improve the lives of older people in Bristol. We do this through providing top-quality services, collaborating with other organisations working with older people, influencing local decision-making, and promoting positive attitudes to ageing in the city.

Age UK Bristol offers a range of services for older people in Bristol, including activities to stay active and connected with others, as well as practical support on benefits, social care and housing.

Since the start of the pandemic, AUKB has led the Support Hub for Older People. This is a collaboration of local charities all working with older people in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset, to better meet the needs of the older population. The Support Hub is accessed via the AUKB main telephone line and can match callers with the support they need, whether that is from within AUKB or from the Hub or beyond.

The Age UK logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Age UK webpage.
The Age of Creativity logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Age of Creativity webpage.

The Age of Creativity provides leadership, profile, advocacy and infrastructure development for practitioners and others interested in the value of creativity for older people. We were established in 2012 with funding from the Baring Foundation. Our work supports professionals working in arts, health, culture, social care, academia and voluntary and community sectors to enable and sustain the involvement of older people in creative activities that support them to enjoy improved health, wellbeing and quality and life.

We’re CADA, England’s Creative Ageing Development Agency, we believe that we all have a right to create and take an active part in creativity and cultural life at any age. We are working to lead a fundamental rethink and reflection on ageing and creativity, challenging ageism in the arts and heritage sectors, and society more widely.

Society is richer when all older people are visible and valued; when communities come together to share arts, culture, and heritage through the lens of age and experience, and when there are opportunities for everyone to emerge, or re-emerge, as a creative talent in later life. We want to celebrate and champion the cultural contribution of older people, and harness that collective energy to support change.

CADA is funded by the Baring Foundation, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Arts Council England and hosted by Manchester Museum.

The Creative Ageing Development Agency logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Creative Ageing Development Agency webpage.
The Centre for Cultural Value logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Centre for Cultural Value webpage.

The Centre for Cultural Value is building a shared understanding of the differences that arts, culture, heritage and screen make to people’s lives and to society. We want cultural policy and practice to be based on rigorous research and evaluation of what works and what needs to change.

The Centre is based at the University of Leeds, with a national remit. We work alongside cultural practitioners and organisations, academics, funders and policymakers to: summarise existing evidence to make relevant research more accessible; support the cultural sector to develop skills in research, evaluation and reflective practice; and shape policy development.

In 2020-2021 our research is focused on the theme of Culture, Health and Wellbeing. Upcoming themes include Cultural Participation, and Community, Identity and Place.

“The cultural and creative economy is what makes Bristol unique. It is the city’s beating heart bringing life into all of our communities. It isn’t what we do – it is who we are.” – Lynn Barlow and Cllr Craig Cheney, Co-Chairs of the One City Culture Board.

We use culture as a catalyst and play a leading role in driving a city of hope and aspiration where everyone can share in its success. We focus on being inclusive, collaborative and sustainable and enabling citizens of Bristol to share their stories in creative and innovative ways. This project is a fantastic opportunity for the city and the cultural ecology to drive change and we are dedicated partners linking the wider city and cultural sector to the project.

The Bristol Culture logo is shown. Click on this logo to open the Bristol Culture webpage.