Completed research

Take a look at all the research the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender has taken part in.

The SAFE (Secure, Accessible, Friendly, Equal) project used focus groups and a survey to investigate the current housing provision and housing options available to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT*) people as they get older. A total of 201 people, living in Greater London and a County in the West of England and aged 50-86, participated in the research, making it the largest study of its kind in the UK to date.

Findings from the study were disseminated in July 2016 to a range of housing providers, government agencies, charities and LGBT community groups & advocates, in addition to LGBT* people themselves.


There has been very little research exploring what LGBT* people want in relation to housing as they get older. Some research has suggested that older LGBT* people want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and to be treated with dignity and respect by support services.

Reports of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia from staff and/or other residents in residential homes and sheltered housing is a concern for many. These and other issues can affect how LGBT* people think about housing later in life but many older LGBT* people haven’t made specific plans related to their future housing.


The SAFE Housing project explored these issues and found that:

  • Safety in the home was dependent upon the amount of control the person felt they had over their home environment
  • Social isolation from friends, partners, and/or other LGBT people was a big concern
  • Transphobia in their local area and in LGBT* communities was a concern for trans* respondents and could affect the presentation of gender identity in certain housing settings
  • 58 per cent of survey respondents had concerns about housing later in life, but 72 per cent had not made any plans for their future housing
  • Opinion varied with regard to future housing preferences, e.g. older lesbian respondents indicated a stronger preference for gender-specific housing whereas gay men preferred housing for anyone
  • If given the choice, the majority of lesbian and bisexual women respondents expressed a preference for a carer of the same gender as them, the majority of gay and bisexual men expressed a preference for a carer with the same sexuality as them
  • 75 per cent felt that a ‘charter mark’ scheme to identify organisations with a culture of acceptance and benevolence towards LGBT* people was a good idea if properly regulated.

We have a short, downloadable brochure about the project and its findings (PDF).

For more information about the study please contact the lead project investigator, Andrew King.

A follow-up impact project LGBT*House is now being conducted in collaboration with Stonewall Housing. This will enable the findings of the SAFE Housing Project to be disseminated to a wider audience, including LGBT* communities and housing providers and policy makers.

This series explored gaps in current knowledge about the lives of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) people. It ran from April 2013 to Jan 2015. Led by CRAG co-director Dr Andrew King along with Dr Kathy Almack of the University of Hertfordshire, Dr Yiu Tung Suen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Dr Sue Westwood, the series comprised six seminars and a final conference. Find out more.

book bringing together themes from the series written by a range of authors will be published by Routlendge in 2018.

Part of the Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (2010 – August 2013)
Funded by ESRC, Defra and the Scottish Government

Project team

Kate Burningham1,2, Sue Venn1,Tim Jackson1, Ian Christie1, Birgitta Gatersleben31Centre for Environmental Strategy
2Department of Sociology
3Department of Psychology

University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH
Contact: Sue Venn

Project aims

This study aims to provide an in-depth exploration of a range of issues relating to the way in which people’s lifestyles may become more or less sustainable at points of transition, specifically those having a first child and those retiring.

Sara Arber, Kevin Morgan (Loughborough University), Debra Skene (University of Surrey), Roger Orpwood (Bath), Ingrid Eyers (University of Vechta)
SomnIA was a four year NDA Collaborative Research Project (CRP) which addressed practice and policy relevant issues arising from the nature, impact and management of the sleep-wake balance in later life. It focused on strategically targeted areas of sleep research relevant to understanding and improving autonomy, active ageing, and quality of later life.

The SomnIA interdisciplinary research team comprised partners from six disciplines and four institutions - sociology (Sara Arber/Rebekah Luff/Robert Meadows/Susan Venn, Surrey), psychology (Kevin Morgan, Loughborough), neuroendocrinology (Debra Skene/Benita Middleton, Surrey), engineering (Roger Orpwood, Bath), nursing (Ingrid Eyers, University of Vechta (formerly Surrey) and medicine (David Armstrong, King's College London and University of Surrey), together with consultants in health economics (Heather Gage), medical statistics (Peter Williams) and clinical psychology (Maureen Tomeny).

Project team
Principal Investigator: Sara Arber 

Senior Research Fellow: Ann Adams , Centre for Primary Health Care Studies, University of Warwick

Research Secretary: Sue Venn 


The UK research was part of a larger project led by the New England Research Institutes (NERI) in Boston (Principal Investigator: Dr John McKinlay). The project was funded by the US National Institute of Aging, National Institutes of Health, contract number R01 AG16747 for three years, 2000-03.


The aims of the project were to investigate doctor's decision-making in relation to two common conditions among older people focusing on the influence of:

  • UK versus US primary care doctors
  • four patient characteristics - gender, age (55 vs 75), class and race
  • two doctor characteristics - gender and years since completed medical training


A factorial experimental design was used. A stratified random sample of 128 doctors in the UK and 128 doctors in the US were shown equivalent, culturally appropriate videos of doctor-patient interactions for each condition, following randomisation of combinations of the four patient characteristics and two doctor characteristics. The doctors were interviewed about their diagnosis, test-ordering, treatment, and referral decisions. Half of the interviews were conducted by Ann Adams in the Midlands and half (64) in Surrey and south-east London by the Surrey team.

Cynthia Wyld, Sara Arber, Kate Davidson, Pat Duff.

A study of the management of change in five residential homes for older people run by Anchor Homes South, encompassing the views of residents, relatives and staff over 12 months. (Funded by Anchor Trust).

Project Team

Award Holder : Sara Arber
Research Fellow: Kate Davidson
Research Fellow: Helen Marshall


This project was funded by the European Union, (Contract No: QLK1-CT-2002-02447, 36 months January 2002 - December 2005). CRAG was responsible for the data collection of two work packages (WP5 and WP6) in this project, leading on the design of WP6.


The aims of work packages 5 and 6 were:

  • To determine the role of formal (eg food related, social or health) services in food procurement and consumption
  • To determine the role of informal (eg family, friends, neighbours) services in food procurement and consumption
  • To investigate the nature of older people's meal consumption including: time of day, composition of meal, and types of foods consumed
  • Investigate the social aspects relating to older people's meals including the importance of other people and the roles they play
  • To compare the above aims across cultures, age groups, living circumstances and gender


Work packages 5 and 6 comprised a multi-method approach, including qualitative interviews with 80 older people analysed with the assistance of the CAQDAS package MAXqda; and food consumption and food shopping diaries analysed using SPSS. The sample includes 40 men and 40 women, equal numbers aged 65-74 and 75+ and equal numbers living alone and with partners. Data collection was carried out in 8 European countries (n=640).

Project Director
Jay Ginn

This ESRC project (Award No. R000271002) was funded from October 1999 to September 2002.

To consolidate and extend sociological understanding of the gendered nature of ageing, focusing on the way women's employment interacts with pension systems and how this relationship is changing. Specifically:

  • To improve understanding of the differing and changing implications of ageing, family roles and generation, according to gender and class
  • To contribute to influencing pensions policy
  • To raise awareness of gender issues in pension reforms among pensioners, trade unionists and other user groups

Main objectives

  • To consolidate and extend previous research on the effects of the changing mix of public and private pensions using secondary analysis of national datasets (GHS and BHPS). In particular to examine how women's paid and unpaid work influence their acquisition of pensions, in order to understand how marital and parental status, educational level, occupational class and ethnicity affect employment, earnings and pension scheme membership. The research examined the emerging polarisation in the 1990s of women's employment and earnings patterns across the working life and the consequences for women's pensions in the future
  • To assess the gender impact of recent and planned pension reforms in a range of liberal democracies, through an international conference and edited book, Women, Work and Pensions: International issues and prospects(Open University Press, 2001). These would promote awareness of the gender issues to be considered in planning pension reform
  • To organise a new Research Network on Ageing in Europe, with a stream at the European Sociological Association 2001 conferences
  • To write a sole-authored book, Gender, Pensions and the Life Course (Policy Press, 2003) , focusing on UK data and the effects of recent pension changes. This contributed to understanding of social policy in this area and provided an accessible and comprehensive source of information on gender and pensions for user groups, policy makers and the academic community.

Project team
Principal Investigator: Sara Arber
Senior Research Fellow: Jay Ginn

This project was funded by the ESRC (Grant no. 108404) from August 1 2004 November 30 2004


  • To examine changes in the attitudes of midlife men and women to employment and retirement, comparing cohorts aged 50-69 in 1989 and 1997
  • To compare these changes across five distinct types of welfare regime in Europe
  • To analyse how attitudes of midlife men and women to retirement change with advancing age
  • To compare these changes across the five welfare regimes

Data from two waves of the International Social Survey Programme(ISSP) 1989 and 1997, was used to examine the work orientation of men and women aged 50-69. In these years, the ISSP provides information on attitudes to work and alternative uses of time, as well as sociodemographic information. Individuals were interviewed and asked to complete a self-completion questionnaire on how they would prefer to rebalance their time use between paid work, housework, family, friends and leisure. Those employed more than 10 hours per week were asked about the quality of their job, in terms of rewards and adverse conditions. First, analyses were used to estimate changes across the eight year gap in the two waves of ISSP, comparing five countries from different welfare regime types – Norway (social-democratic), Britain (liberal), West Germany (conservative-corporatist), Hungary (transitional) and Italy ( Mediterranean ). Second, quasi-cohorts were constructed to simulate ageing across eight years, and attitude changes with ageing were analysed, comparing the five countries.

Project team
Award Holder: Sara Arber
Principal Investigator: Kate Davidson
Research Fellow: Kim Perren
Research Assistant: Tom Daly

This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), award number: L480 25 4033 for 34 months from October 1999 to March 2003.


To investigate the social networks and health behaviours of men over the age of 65, comparing marital status: married/remarried/cohabiting; widowed; divorced/separated and never married. A particular interest of the project was on the lives of older men who live alone, a population which is projected to increase over the next two decades.

A multi-method approach including:

  • observational visits (N=25) to social organisations which have older people in their membership
  • semi-structured interviews (N=85) with men over the age of 65: 30 married/remarried/cohabiting; 33 widowed; 10 divorced and 12 never married
  • secondary analysis of three national datasets: the General Household Survey (GHS); the Health Survey for England and the British Household Panel Survey.

WebsiteSociology of Sleep

Project Team
Principal Investigator: Sara Arber
Project Manager: Jenny Hislop
Research Fellow: Robert Meadows
Research Administrator: Sue Venn

This project was funded by the ESRC (Award No. RES-000-23-0268) for 30 months from October 2003-April 2006.

To investigate the inter-relationship between the sleep patterns of partners: (a) To identify any differences between partners' sleep behaviour, (b) To see how each partner's sleep affects the other, (c) To ascertain any differences in perceptions of 'sleep needs' and 'sleep rights', both their own and their partner's. (d) To identify how each partner justifies (or not) their sleep reality.

  • To examine how findings under the above aim are associated with changes across the life course according to chronological age and to 'life events' such as marriage, the ages of children and changing work demands.
  • To understand and explain any gender differences, in terms of modes of embodiment and the nature of roles of each partner in the public and private spheres.
  • To integrate physiological knowledge about sleep (i.e. actigraphy measurement) with sociological understanding and to examine the physiological impact each partner is having on the other during sleep.


A multi-method cross-disciplinary approach, including qualitative interviews with 40 couples, one week audio sleep diaries, one week actigraphy, a follow-up qualitative interview with each partner in the couple, and buccal swabs for PER3 analysis.

Further Information: Robert Meadows

Project Team
Principal Investigator: Sara Arber
Research Fellow: Jenny Hislop

Funded by the Commission of the European Communities (contract number QLK6-CT-2000-00499) for three years (2001-2004), this project was part of a cross-national study ( Finland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK) designed to integrate sociological data with biomedical studies in the study of women's sleep. CRAG provided the sociological input for the study.


To investigate:

  • the effect of ageing on sleep patterns for women aged 40 and over,
  • the nature of sleep problems experienced by these women,
  • the impact of these problems on women's daily lives, and
  • the strategies and treatments women use to overcome sleep problems.

A multi-method approach, including 15 focus groups (N=124), in-depth interviews (N=35), audio sleep diaries (N=35), and a national postal questionnaire (N=1500).

Project team
Principal Investigator: Sarah Hampson (Psychology Department)
Co-Investigators: Sara Arber (CRAG) and Hilary Thomas (Royal Surrey County Hospital )
Research Fellow: Tushna Vandrevala (Psychology)
Research Assistant: Tom Daly (CRAG)

This project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation (grant number AGE/00061/G) for 33 months from September 2002 to May 2005.


  • To understand the views of older people about the use of life prolonging medical technologies used to increase life span at the final stages of life, focusing on the use of CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation), ventilation, artificial (tube) feeding and Do-not-attempt to resuscitate (DNAR) orders.
  • To understand the attitudes of the confidants of older people about use of life prolonging medical technologies for their older relative and for themselves.
  • To examine what facilitates communication between an older person and their significant family member (confidant) about whether they would wish to have life prolonging medical technologies during the final stages of life, and decisions about drawing up a Living Will or Advance Directive.
  • To design and evaluate a leaflet for older people to provide advice on communicating their wishes about whether to have life prolonging medical technologies.


  • 10 focus groups with older people from different types of organisational settings to discuss their views of medical care during the final stages of life
  • Semi-structured (tape-recorded) Interview in the home with 69 people aged 65+, selected from the age-sex registers of 4 General Practitioners in 3 economically diverse areas in SE England . Letters sent to prospective participants (age 65-69, 70-74, 75-79 and 80+, and equal numbers of men and women)
  • Separate interview with 53 confidants. Confidants were nominated by the older person as the person that they were closest to
  • Design of leaflet for older people about Care and Decision Making at the End of Life. Leaflet evaluated by brief interviews with older people and health care practitioners.

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Department of Sociology
University of Surrey