We are a small group of volunteer co-researchers from different parts of Scotland. All of us are over the age of 50, the same as the participants of our HAGIS: COVID-19 Impact and Recovery Study. We have been meeting virtually for several months now to help to shape the questionnaire and develop the skills to assist with interviewing study participants. We bring with us a broad variety of skills and experiences and have gelled very well as a group despite not being able to meet face-to-face for a while!
Who we are
More about us
I have recently retired following a varied and stimulating working life. After leaving university, I taught in a primary school in Coatbridge for ten years. I then went back to university and completed an MSc in Tourism, after which I moved north to work with Moray Badenoch and Strathspey Enterprise Company promoting tourism training, development and promotion. I then moved into community development, working closely with a wide range of communities to improve their sustainability and quality of life. In 2003, I became Moray's first Community Planning Officer working with a range of public sector partners, including the NHS, police, fire service etc, encouraging them to work more closely together. I then changed tack completely and spent my last seven years of employment in the Third Sector, firstly on a Highland-wide project Reshaping Care for Older People and secondly another Highland-wide project, called LGOWIT, supporting people with long term conditions to self-manage their health and wellbeing and thereby leading a more fulfilled life.
I am a 73-year-old retired HR Consultant and live in a small town in Aberdeenshire with my partner David. I am a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language (TEFL) and moved my lessons from face-to-face to Zoom throughout lockdown. I gained accreditation as a counsellor in 1998 and supported individuals with alcohol problems for 19 years until the organisation I worked with closed down. I also qualified as a Counselling Supervisor and continue to provide support to a domestic abuse counsellor regularly. My other hobbies are art and singing. I attend two very different art classes and sing with a small group of musical friends, offering entertainment (pre-lockdown) to sheltered housing and nursing home residents and various church and friendship groups in the local area.
I started work in the coal mining industry in Durham where I served an apprenticeship and went to college to gain chief engineer qualifications. I left the coal industry in the 70’s to work for an oil company until I retired. In 1980, I relocated with my family to Aberdeenshire. I play league Table Tennis; I am the chairman of the league and also a coach. I have child protection training and a PVG qualification. I play cricket, and I am the volunteer groundsman for my club. I volunteer for Diabetes Scotland and have hosted peer support group meetings. I enjoy walking; I am a leader for a Nordic walking group.
I live in Grantown on Spey. I am married to Gordon who is also retired. I was a qualified Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages before marriage. Then, I was a Primary School Special Needs Auxiliary helping children with learning difficulties with their lessons. I left this post to go to university where I obtained a BD (Hons) and post-grad DipMin. I am now a retired Church of Scotland Minister who still does pulpit supply. I have been a Safeguarding Coordinator for three congregations. I have run a course for people interested in Pastor visiting along with Elders. My degree was in Christian Ethics and Practical Theology. This included Pastoral care and counselling, Bioethics, Christian Spirituality, Homolectics etc. I also did a course in counselling skills and have been involved in different groups such as Diabetics and PMR/GCA.
I retired in 2009 but continue to co-ordinate the Intergenerational National Network. For the past two years, I have been working with colleagues at the University of Dundee on several research projects. I am very much enjoying continuing my journey with the University of Stirling HAGIS study.
I live in Perthshire with my husband Ian; we are both retired. We enjoy gardening and visiting family. We have three sons, all now married, and three grandchildren. I like to keep myself busy. I am a volunteer with the Soldiers, Sailors & Airforce Families Association. I also write children’s books which I enjoy immensely.
What have we done so far
We have been playing an important role in shaping this study. We have helped develop and refine a participant information sheet and interview topic guides. We have completed the survey and provided comments on the relevance, readability and clarity of the questions. We have also checked for the correct use of accessible language in the questionnaires and added some guidance on active listening for the interview stage of this study. In contributing to the discussions thus far, we have sought to provide the perspective of individuals in the target age range who have lived through the pandemic. Throughout, we have also tried to focus on the practicalities of how best to encourage others to engage fully and effectively in this study, thus ensuring the maximum impact.
HAGIS asked us: What would entice you to open an envelope sent by HAGIS?
A message on the front of the envelope saying: Would you like to be part of an important piece of research.
Needs to stand out, avoid political colours, something colourful, violet maybe?
Looks official from the University of Stirling, assured not a scam, include the University logo.
HAGIS asked us: What would motivate you to start and complete a survey?
Clear links to Scottish policy, NHS services, prevalence etc. to demonstrate how this survey will contribute to a wider impact. We also need to know the purpose of the survey, what will be done with the information and what will it be used for.
Being part of this group has given us an insight into the importance of such study groups. We are learning from one another, taking up ideas and discussing various aspects. The whole experience has been very valuable and stimulating. We have learned much from listening to the 'professional' researchers from the University of Stirling in respect of preparing for and conducting a major piece of research. We particularly appreciate the co-production approach in this study. We are learning the knowledge and skills we need to become effective co-researchers.
We understand how extremely important this study is given the COVID-19 pandemic and the tremendous effect it is having on individuals and families. Some of us had become quite introspective during the lockdown, and the study has broadened our views on the wider impact of COVID-19. This study is vital for future decision-making by the Government and medical bodies on how to address the impact of COVID-19 on older people in Scotland. This study should allow them to make better informed and more effective decisions for all of us!