Supporting older people’s wellbeing: emergent social enterprise-led social innovations

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Like many other countries, Scotland faces a ‘demographic deficit’ between its economically active population and the number of older people requiring care and support (Harper, 2014; Lee & Mason, 2010). The UK Government’s austerity agenda has reduced funding for state-provided older peoples’ social care despite this demographic deficit, pushing third sector service providers to provide socially innovative solutions. Government attempts to increase the third sector’s role in supporting older people’s health and wellbeing is part of a wider reduction in UK state-funded service provision that has been described as the social enterprization of welfare systems (Sepulveda, 2015). In addition to cuts to their services, older people already endure marginalisation, suffering reduced social status and perceived compromised competence (Cuddy et al, 2005). This is partly evidenced in service design, where activities for older people are homogenous and based arbitrarily on chronological age, ignoring diversity in individuals’ capabilities and functioning. This homogeneity also results in a confusing picture of mixed health outcomes from research into such initiatives, for example when older people are grouped by age, gender, or long-term health conditions (Masi et al, 2011; Cattan et al, 2005; Stevens, 2001). This study aimed to understand how transformative social enterprise-led innovative activities promoting older people’s wellbeing emerge in this landscape of austerity and marginalisation. Using data from 19 semi-structured interviews with local and nationally-based social enterprise and public sector stakeholders, a thematic analysis found social enterprises’ emergent social innovations were positively and negatively impacted by interactions with public and private sector organisations. Further, like older people, social enterprises were found to be marginalised and perceived homogenously by other sectors, suffering scapegoating and being positioned in the market as ‘providers of last resort’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019


  • Social innovation
  • Social enterprise
  • Social policy
  • Older people


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