Universidad al Alcance Programme. Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Social and Cultural Transfer, Graduate School and Social Council of the UAB.


2nd Call for Applications for Grants 2008. Social Council of the UAB.


M. Pérez Salanova, R. Martínez Pascual, S. Arenas, M. Hernández


1. Introduction

The low visibility of older persons in the academic, university and social area has negative repercussions in terms of prejudice generation and little recognition of their specific knowledge. The programme Universidad al alcance – University at your fingertips– from the Autonomous University of Barcelona carries out different lines of action for the promotion of active ageing and the empowerment of older adults, including action research projects.

In the 40th anniversary of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the programme for older adults of the Universidad al Alcance starts this project, carried out with the support of the Social Council of the UAB, that rebuilds the history of the UAB from stories of older people in the territory, incorporating as innovative components the fact that the research team consist of older adults (the so-called Advisory Panel).

The strengthening of the older people's role promotes the visibility and recognition of these in our society. The participation of older people in the research activity promotes the empowerment and generates procedures in which the investigated subject participates as an active agent in the research process.

The objectives of the project are:

  • to build the history of the UAB from the memory of the older people.
  • to enhance the role of the elderly in society.
  • to produce publications for a subsequent projection.
  • to strengthen the relationship of the UAB with University Extension Classes for older people and the territory.
  • to promote the participation of older people in the research activity.

2. Methodology.

The used methodology for achieving the project has been qualitative.

Three groups of participants have been created. The first group consists of thirteen older people in the territory related with the university since its beginnings (people expropriated of the territory, workers during the building of the university, teaching and administrative and services staff, students and people from the territory). The second group has been formed by five older adults from the University Extension Classes for Older Adults or entities close to the Autonomous University of Barcelona which have established the connexion between the narrators and the project coordination. Finally, the third group, called Advisory Panel, is formed by six researcher older people (three woman and three men).

There have been three training sessions with the Advisory Group about the narrative productions (qualitative methodology). These sessions were led by a professor in the Department of Social Psychology at the UAB, expert in psychosocial research. During the formation process of the Advisory Panel, a common framework of concepts and relevant issues regarding the phenomenon have been established, and the knowledge necessary for both the implementation of the interview and the construction narratives from oral materials.

The narrative productions have been the main used methodology. An approach to the studied phenomenon has been carried out together with the Advisory Panel, from discussion groups and readings about the phenomenon.

Then, the guidelines of the interview have been jointly prepared. Once prepared the guidelines, the thirteen interviews to the narrators have been conducted, posed as a conversation during which certain issues will be unevenly developed with each narrator, promoting the particularities of each experience. The narrations have been written from the oral material, so that each researcher has built a first-person story, rearranging and giving them an argumentative logic. In all cases the researchers have come back to the story in order to can make changes and enlarge it and, ultimately, to verify that the story contains their view about the phenomenon. Finally, the definitive story has been produced and published, adding a visual file with the images provided by the narrators.

During the whole process, a monitoring of the Advisory Panel's involvement

has to be carried out (still carrying out), with an amount of fourteen individual interviews (six at the beginning of the project and six at the end) and two group sessions (one at the beginning and the other at the end). The main objective has been to evaluate the older adults' involvement.

3. Results

Four results of the project can be mainly highlighted. Firstly, the publication of a book and a DVD containing thirteen stories of older adults in the territory regarding to the university.

Secondly, a presentation day has been celebrated to introduce the publications with the different attendants and the involved institutional representation.

Thirdly, efforts have been made to disseminate the experience of the researcher community.

Finally, an evaluation of the older adult's research activity has been made (yet in process).

4. Conclusions

The relationship between the researcher and the research subject, when both of them are older adults, improves the relationship in the process. There is a vital shared knowledge and the proximity with the interviewed provides further and more detailed information.

Three principles of the research with older adults must be considered. First of all, the symmetry in the research team, regarding to the need of building a peer-to-peer relationship in which the researcher and the older adult researcher are at the same level, while the general guidelines are setting as coordination of the project. Secondly, the commitment to the project, regarding to the promotion of the responsibility in the researcher group so as they accomplish the agreements made and get the researcher's loyalty during the all the process. Finally, the satisfaction during the process of the older adult researchers, which aims to get a grateful experience for the attendants and optimize the disadvantages in the different stages of the process.

The participation of older people in research powers their empowerment, opening new ways in lifelong training, not only as receivers, but as generators of knowledge.

Libro UAB


Image 1. Cover of the publication resulting of the Project.


Ficha_Proyectos_Universidad_Autonoma_BCN.pdf186.91 KB