University project for older people wins major European award

A project led by the Centre for Rural Health, a research unit involving the University of the Highlands and Islands and the University of Aberdeen, which looked at the role of older people in rural life in Scotland, Sweden, Finland, Greenland and Northern Ireland, and helped to devise community support schemes, has won a major European Commission award.

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Experts explore solutions with older people in Lochinver

The Older People for Older People (O4O) project has won the RegioStars 2012 Award in the category “Inclusive Growth: Strategies, initiatives or projects addressing the challenge of demographic change and supporting active ageing”.  The award distinguishes original and innovative projects which could be attractive and inspiring to other European regions.

O4O investigated ways to enable older people to live happily and healthily in their homes and communities, as well as making a strong contribution to community life.

"This award recognises the incredible contribution made by older people to their communities,” explained project coordinator Kate Stephen who accepted the award at a ceremony in Brussels tonight (14 June). “The project has demonstrated that older people themselves are central in developing solutions to the challenges they face. I have been inspired by, and am very proud of their achievements which have improved the lives of many people in villages and rural areas in Europe’s Northern Periphery.”

O4O helped a community group to form and take over the running of a care centre for the elderly in Lochinver, Assynt, and engaged senior citizens in Ardersier, near Inverness, to make a film of their memories, among other initiatives in the Highlands.

European Commissioner Johannes Hahn for Regional Policy stated about the winning project: "I am pleased to see a project illustrating the benefits of territorial cooperation recognized through the RegioStars awards. It shows that by combining efforts, EU regions can find concrete solutions to the common challenges they face.  Partners across Europe's northern periphery have worked closely together to develop new support systems and services for their older citizens living in rural areas. This is indeed an excellent example of the good use of EU investment."

Although the project is finished, the services developed by older people in the rural communities involved continue. The experiences and learning established during the project have been captured and presented in the O4O Toolkit - a 'manual' which will enable the start-up of O4O-type services in further communities throughout the Northern Periphery and beyond.

James Fraser, University of the Highlands and Islands Principal and Vice-Chancellor congratulated the O4O project team, saying: “It is gratifying to receive such distinguished acknowledgment for this important work. The European Commission's RegioStars annual awards highlight the most innovative projects that have been supported by European Regional Policy. And it is testament to the tangible difference this O4O project has actually made to the older people in our rural communities in the Highlands and islands that it has won from over 100 entries.”

More details about the O4O project are available on their website,

The O4O project was part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Northern Periphery Programme 2007-2013.

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Alison Hay
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