Richard Seymour of Keele University explains how his partnership with Saltbox and its service users helps research into dementia
At a time when the government is counting every penny it spends, anyone who asks for more of it has to come up with some pretty good reasons for why they deserve it. This includes universities. Our country’s academics spend millions every year on research. Much of it is your money. You have every right to know it is not being wasted.
For that reason, universities are falling over themselves to prove the research they do has impact. That means, in part, that the work they do benefits you, the taxpayer. Psychology departments are in a great position to be able to do this as they routinely look for ways to make people’s lives better. Even that is not enough, though. Academics need to step outside their bubbles and engage directly with the community. They need to partner with local councils, businesses and charities. In doing so they get to find out what people want from them. The public can even get involved as co-researchers.
I’m a postgraduate student at Keele university. My research examines how useful poetry is at promoting well-being in older adults. Do different themes of poetry have different effects (it seems that they do); what psychological mechanisms are at play? I’ve partnered with local care homes who are really keen to help as they think it will benefit their residents.
I’ve also teamed up with Saltbox. I’ve found their local knowledge and book of contacts invaluable. Even better than that, some of their members, via CareLink, have even agreed to participate directly in a study which evaluates the effectiveness of poetry-based programme. In addition, the OPEN project has proven invaluable in providing introductions to key contacts at residential homes and the city council’s Ageing Well team – along with several staff and committee members to facilitate group reading sessions.
It’s extraordinarily gratifying to have enjoyed so much interest and support in my research from a local charity that is so important to the lives of many of Stoke on Trent’s older people. And through Saltbox I am able to spread the news, as it were, about how your money is being spent and why. Hopefully you’ll agree by the end of it, it was all good value for money.
Richard Seymour, Poetry Project 2017