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'Frailty & Ethnicity' - The Social Dimensions of Frailty in Older Age

Coordinated by the Universities of Liverpool, Leicester, Nottingham, and The Free University of Brussels, working closely with Age UK (Leicester, Shire and Rutland) and The Race Equality Centre, the 'Frailty and Ethnicity' research project is funded by the UKRI Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The £1.1 million project has been awarded funding of £792,000 from the ESRC.

Bringing together two concepts that are multifaceted lived experiences, this research explores the relationship between ethnicity and the experience of frailty in old age, in one of Britain’s most diverse cities (Leicester). Understanding how frailty is conceptualised in a diverse range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds is key to understanding health and illness in old age in these communities.

Focussed on the lived experiences of older Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians, Caribbeans, and members of the African and White communities, the research aims to further understanding of frailty relative to ethnicity through analysing the collective lived experience. Context and circumstance are key to the lived experience of frailty, and this research aims to generate policy recommendations and practical tools designed to address the issue of persistent and enduring health inequality.

Thanks to ESRC funding, this interdisciplinary project brings together a team of researchers and partner organisations whose complementary expertise aims to capture aspects associated with experiences of health, illness, and frailty in old age that may be harder to articulate. The project team will be exploring a breadth of themes including specific contemporary ageing risks for groups, as well as those associated with place, social networks, employment, and access to skills/education across the life course and into old age, which will in turn be shaped by experiences of immigration, diaspora, racism, socio-economic inequality and generational culture change.

By exploring the differences in health outcomes and lived experience between and within groups, the research aims to disentangle the multiple overlapping layers of social, economic, and cultural factors that contribute to frailty as well as those that support wellbeing and resilience.

Call for participants

The Frailty and Ethnicity study aims to improve the care of older people accessing NHS services by learning from the lived experience of older people and those who care for them. We would like to talk to healthcare professionals about your experience of working with frail older people from minority ethnic communities. 

This will involve taking part in an informal, online interview for around 1 hour. To take part, please contact Dr Victoria Cluley at

The Principle Investigator on the project is Professor Susan Pickard, who is Head of the Department of Sociology, Social Policy, and Criminology within the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool. Co-Investigators are Professor Jay Banerjee, Professor in Emergency Care and Academic Champion in Clinical Leadership, University of Leicester; Professor Simon Conroy, Consultant in Geriatric Medicine, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, University College London; Professor Surinder Sharma, National Director, Equality and Human Rights at UK Department of Health; Dr Victoria Cluley, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Nottingham; Dr Bram Vanhoutte, Associate Professor of Public Health, Free University of Brussels; Dr Christopher Williams, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester; Dr Hanne Laceulle, Assistant Professor of the Philosophy of Life Course and Art of Living, University of Humanistic Studies.

Partnering with Age UK (Leicester, Shire and Rutland) and The Race Equality Centre; Anthony Donovan, Executive Director, Age UK, and Dr Iris Lightfoote, Chief Executive Officer, The Race Equality Centre, will also be contributors to the research.


Advisory Board

Dr Shibley Rahman, University College London

Iris Lightfoote, The Race Equality Centre, Leicester

Tony Donovan, Age UK, Leicester Shire and Rutland

Cheryl Clegg, Age UK, Leicester Shire and Rutland

Professor Adam Gordon, President of British Geriatrics Society

Professor Ken Rockwood, Dalhousie University, Canada

Professor Zoe Radnor, Aston University

Tom Gentry, Age UK, London

Professor Ivan Browne. Director of Public Health at Leicester City Council & De Montfort University


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