At Maynooth University, task 2.1 of the SHAPES project is dedicated to “Understanding Older People: Lives, Communities and Contexts”. Our ethnographic research with individuals across Europe resulted in 100 in-depth case studies on the lifeworlds of the 65+ age group with detailed accounts of older adults’ perceptions and experiences of age and ageing, their social lives, their philosophies and agency, their communities and networks, their thoughts on wellbeing, health systems, care structures, as well as their use, worries and expectations of digital technologies.

In autumn 2020, our team at Maynooth created #shapesstories to populate the website with the rich insights gathered from self-reflections of these individuals and disseminate them to our partners in SHAPES and an interested public. These short stories on the comprehension of individuals, environments and real-life contexts of ageing in 10 Pilot Sites across Europe are created in such a way as to be locally useful and available for comparison. The lively narratives of culturally diverse individuals with important lessons on older adults’ motivations, capabilities, fears and joys feed directly into the development of the SHAPES ecosystem that seeks to create a space for smart solutions to support healthy ageing and wellbeing. An Italian woman using a tablet to look at her childhood pictures, a 67-year-old German reflecting on her role as caregiver to her parents, an older man in Portugal seeking love online, a woman in Northern Ireland sharing the challenges when using a mobility scooter with an impish smile, and an always positive lady in the Czech Republic who can no longer ignore the fear created by the pandemic. These are just a few of the #shapesstories that talk about motivational forces, obstacles in the use of technologies, practical needs for education and digital upskilling, health experiences and suggestions for the future that derive from and consider the actual lived experience and thinking of our interlocutors who, ultimately, are the addressed beneficiaries of the SHAPES platform.

You can find the first 13 #shapesstories of the continuously growing pool of enjoyable and equally instructive readings online at or via the top menu of the project websites. The task 2.1 research team will continue to publish regularly from our data to create a detailed and comparable picture of older adults’ lifeworlds, environments, communities.

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