In 2004, the Department of Adult Educational Sciences at the Free University of Brussels and the Department of Health care at the University College Ghent started with a research programme that focuses on local challenges and opportunities, as well as issues of quality of life, among home-dwelling older people. The research project was conducted in cooperation with the province of West Flanders (Belgium) and the West Flemish Seniors Advisory Board (WOAS). In 2013, the study has been conducted among 75319 older people living in 159 different municipalities.

What were the origins of the project?

Flemish Decree on participation

On the 21st of April 2004, the Flemish Parliament voted a decree concerning ‘the stimulation of an inclusive Flemish policy on ageing and policy participation of older people’.  The aim of this decree was to promote the participation of older people in local policies.  Municipalities were encouraged to develop elderly policy plans at the local level, as well as to promote initiatives that foster older people’s active participation in policy-making processes. However, many local authorities did not have the necessary experience or knowledge to develop such policy plans. In particular, they lacked the necessary facts and figures about older people’s issues of quality of daily life and needs at the local level.

Request for support in developing elderly policy plans at the local level

In order to support the process of evidenced-based policy-making, researchers at the department of Adult Educational Sciences and the University College Ghent developed a network between a number of older volunteers, local senior advisory boards, senior organisations, professionals, policy-makers (local, regional authorities) and researchers. The aim of this steering group was threefold: first, to develop a system to support evidence- based policy-making; second, to involve older people in local policy-making; and third, to support the processes of community building and networking at the local level (see below for further details).