'Knowing more' and 'knowing better': valuing older people's knowledge and expertise as peer researchers in a study exploring understandings of elder abuse.

Marita O'Brien, Emer Begley, Janet Carter-Anand, Brian Taylor, Campbell Killick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Traditional approaches to generating knowledge result in us ‘knowing more’ about an issue, but do we necessarily ‘know better’? To date definitions and responses to elder abuse have been mainly professionally driven. This paper reflects on how the inclusion of older people as peer researchers in a study that explored older people’s understanding of elder abuse, constructed meanings outside of ‘professional’ typification of elder abuse.
Methods: The design of the study was participatory, qualitative, multi- disciplinary with a cross-border all Ireland dimension. Fifty-eight older adults participated in eight focus groups. Four older people volunteered as peer researchers working in collaboration with the research team. The older researchers took on aspects of research design, data collection through focus groups, data analysis and dissemination.
Results: Engaging peer researchers in this study reframed the research. This came about through peer researcher input at different stages of the research process. Firstly, in the way data was collected. Instead of using vignettes in focus group discussions as in the original proposal, and using a concept based on professionally driven categories of elder abuse, data was collected using open ended questions, devised by the peer researchers, which asked older people what they saw as elder abuse. Secondly, peer researchers, in co-facilitating focus groups, were able to draw out participants on the sensitive topic of elder abuse. Thirdly having lived through the same times, peer researchers’ interpretation of the data added context and depth to the analysis.
Conclusions: The evidence from this study suggests that older peo- ple’s knowledge built up over a lifetime of experiences and professional knowledge gleaned from research and practice are two equally valid sources of knowledge, complementing each other and in this study gave a deeper understanding of elder abuse.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberO29
Pages (from-to)218-219
Number of pages2
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Sept 2013


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