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Creating age-inclusive communities through an interdisciplinary project

Ella gained valuable skills and experience by taking part in a Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) aiming to keep older adults active in their communities.

A head and shoulders image of Ella Burfitt looking towards the viewer and smiling.
Ella has been involved with a VIP that aligns well with her interest in promoting health and wellbeing for all.

Ella is a student on the BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science with placement course. Ella has been taking part in a Vertically Integrated Project (VIP), a research-based project that enables students and staff to collaborate on long-term real-world issues.

A project that aligns with personal goals

The theme of the VIP I’m part of is around creating more age-inclusive communities. I decided to sign up for this VIP because I’m passionate about its aims.

I have a keen interest in health and wellbeing for all, but I also undertook a placement with the Healthy Later Living Network based at the University of Bath, which aims to improve the quality of life and health of older adults through a holistic approach. It involves academics from many departments, such as Architecture & Civil Engineering, Computer Science, and Health. The Network includes many projects, tackling themes such as loneliness, housing, and stereotypes. These studies often partner with external stakeholders to help older adults live healthier later lives. Therefore, the aims of this VIP aligned very well with my own interests and work placement.

Setting aims for the project

We started last academic year by spending some time exploring what older adults are looking for to help them keep active in their local community, and where they may be interested in doing more with younger adults, including students. This was through a survey of older adults and students and resulted in the aim to create a fair for older adults along the same lines as Freshers’ Fair.

One highlight was the conversations we had with external stakeholders about our project, particularly Age UK, from which we received very positive feedback. This year, we will explore expanding this or trying out other ways to promote greater links between the University and local older adults in ways that interest them.

The value of a multidisciplinary team

The experience of working in an interdisciplinary team has been hugely beneficial. I have an increased understanding of a wider range of disciplines and courses at the University. We have a range of students taking part, from undergraduates to experienced PhD students. As our project aims to promote intergenerational engagement in the local community, it is lovely that we have such a range of ages and experience. We all bring something different and new to the group.

Everyone is so motivated to achieve our collective goal and we are all passionate about creating more age-friendly communities. I have really enjoyed getting to know my team members and creating a wonderful working environment. I feel confident in my group making good decisions and achieving our goal of creating a more age-friendly community in Bath and North East Somerset.

I have also really enjoyed working closely with our academic lead, Professor Fiona Gillison. It is great to have her guidance and support and to learn from her. She is always on hand to answer any questions the group has but also allows us to have autonomy over our work.

Gaining transferrable skills

The VIP has provided an opportunity for enormous personal and professional development. I have developed many transferable skills, such as time-management and communication. However, teamwork and collaboration have been the stand-out skills I feel I’ve improved through working with really inspiring fellow students.

I also had the opportunity to be the team leader of the group in semester 2 last year, which really improved my leadership skills; effectively organising everyone for meetings and taking the lead when we met with external stakeholders.

I would recommend a VIP due to the people you meet, the transferable skills you develop, and the satisfaction and enjoyment you get from working in a close-knit team.

Vertically Integrated Projects

Find out more about VIPs at Bath