New research aims to revolutionise care for older people

Categories: Research.

New research on social care and older people resulted in a toolkit designed by The Open University aimed at transforming the well-being of older people and staff in the care sector.

It is based on an emerging understanding of ‘relational care’ – an approach which represents a shift to a more multidirectional flow of care where staff do things ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ residents.

An example of this is where older people and care staff share activities, learn from each other and support each other through challenges.

Underpinned by academic research from the report The value and practice of relational care with older people, which was funded by the Hallmark Foundation, the toolkit offers practical guidance for managers and staff on how to create the right conditions for relational care in their community or residential settings.

With a sector that has a soaring workforce turnover of 25%, at least 160,000 staff vacancies and 18% of care homes having to close in recent times, researchers say that the toolkit they have created from this research, could have far reaching benefits and provide more positive outcomes for staff and residents.

In practical terms this could mean higher staff retention rates, reduced recruitment costs and improved well-being across the sector at little extra cost to care providers.

Dr Manik Deepak-Gopinath, Lecturer in Ageing and Professor Mary Larkin, Professor of Care, Carers and Caring at The Open University said:

“Our research has enabled a better understanding what relational care looks like and the positive impact it has on older people, their families and care providers. 

We know that meaningful relationships are developed in an environment that facilitates a mutual sense of belonging, trust and inclusivity, and where everyone can feel respected and valued”


Avnish Goyal, CBE, Chair Hallmark Foundation and Hallmark Care Homes; Chair, Care England, said:

“Hallmark Care Homes have been implementing relational care for years because we know it works. Relational care supports happier older people, it makes our homes happier places, and it makes for happier team members. A real win-win-win which I recommend to all care providers”

Jenny Kartupelis, MBE, expert in relational care said:

“Relational care is already practised in settings around the UK and now this seminal research bridges the gap between theory and everyday good practice with new, replicable and accessible tools to help ensure a more fulfilling life for all involved.”

The research was conducted across the four UK nations in settings where relational care was being practiced. These included three residential homes, one day centre and one supported sheltered housing complex.

In addition to the toolkit which can be found here, there will be resources available on OpenLearn the OU’s free learning platform later this year.

A summary of the report is available here


About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 2.3 million students worldwide and currently has over 208,000 students.

Seventy-one per cent of directly registered students are in full-time or part-time employment, and 76 FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework, 2021), over three quarters (76%) of OU research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available, awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent. The OU’s commitment to research and societal impact is recognised too with 82% of its research impact assessed to be world-leading or internationally excellent.

The OU has had a unique educational partnership with the BBC since 1971 and today focuses on supporting the University’s social mission by extending reach and engagement. Each year the OU co-produces a wide range of television, audio – radio and podcasts, digital and social content with the BBC. Recent series for television include, Write Around the World, The Detectives, Don’t Exclude Me, and Greta: A Year to Save the World. Audio co-productions including All in the Mind and The Bottom Line, for Radio 4 and podcast series’ Bad People and Think with Pinker on BBC Sounds.

The OU play list on BBC Ideas has generated over 4.2m views from 43 videos.

For further information please visit The Open University

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