Participatory Video as conduit for voice amplification and meaningful engagement of older people in the Decade of Healthy Ageing

DSA2023 – Panel 073 – Experiences in decolonial research and practice: in search of connection and agency | Wednesday, June 28, 2023


The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021-2030 provides new opportunities for strengthening the inclusion, visibility and agency of older people, amplifying their voices, centring their meaningful engagement and emphasizing co-created solutions and bottom-up accountability. It also offers new ways to explore health and well being for both current and future generations while reflecting on the Anthropocene, on Nature, on decolonization and on different forms of knowledge and world views.

The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing is a global collaboration, with a Secretariat at the World Health Organisation (WHO) that aims to improve the lives of older people, their families and the communities in which they live through four prioritised Action Areas:

  1. Change how we think, feel and act towards age and ageing
  2. Develop communities in ways that foster the abilities of older people
  3. Deliver integrated care and primary health services responsive to older people
  4. Provide older people who need it access to long term care.

These Action Areas are to be implemented through four enablers. The first of these is enabling the meaningful engagement of older people to ensure that their voices – as well as the voice of their families, caregivers and community members – are heard, amplified and considered.

To support this enabler, the Demographic Change and Healthy Ageing Unit in the Department of the Social Determinants at WHO HQ in Geneva, Switzerland, was awarded funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, under its Healthy Ageing Program Element, to implement a pilot project titled: “Starting the Decade of Healthy Ageing with the voices and engagement of older people”. WHO contracted HelpAge International (HAI) and InsightShare (IS) as suppliers to the project to reach older people through HAI’s network and to deliver the specialist Participatory Video (PV) methodology.

The aim of this project was to ensure that the diverse voices of older people are included prominently at the start of the Decade. This is intended to set the tone for the meaningful engagement of older people throughout the ten years. Meaningful engagement enables people to bring their lived experience, perspectives and expertise to knowledge-generation, policymaking and responses that are rights-based, accountable and ensure that no one is left behind.

slide 1
Image Slide 3
Image Slide 2
previous arrowprevious arrow
next arrownext arrow


In Togo, older people from rural and peri-urban contexts in Kpalimé reflected on intergenerational and livelihood tensions as well as access to public services and social activities. In Canada, Indigenous older people on Manitoulin Island presented their perspectives on the importance of human as well as non-human connections and their broader historical context. In Jordan, older people from an urban mixed context in Amman, where refugee, displaced and host communities live side by side, highlighted challenges in their urban environment and how ageism affects them.


Voice is a commonly used category in social anthropology. It is closely associated with individuality, agency, authority, representation, participation, identity and power. Voice can be ‘captured’ through various methods and is now increasingly being employed in community-based participatory research, including in health, education and social development.

Participatory Video (PV) is an audiovisual method using a set of facilitated techniques that has evolved over the last sixty years to become a powerful collaborative tool to explore issues and mobilise people to take collective action. The idea behind PV is that making a video is easy and accessible and mobilises people or a community to tell their own stories and control how they will be represented while exploring issues, voicing concerns and discussing these with others controlling the film process through all phases. PV films draw their creative power from the authenticity of their content.

As important as the films themselves is the engagement process which creates new open spaces for learning, communication and the co-generation of knowledge and potential solutions to challenges faced by the community members.



Key findings

1) In each of the three locations, older people were able to unpack their own understanding of healthy ageing and discuss issues related to this. In Togo the video speaks of intergenerational conflict, peri-urban life and the effect of dispersed families, unemployment, financial support and nutrition as well as availability and affordability of medicines. In Canada, the older people highlighted lack of engagement and respect, challenges caused by housing situation, emotional stress, limitations of service provision, environmental decline and physical and mental health challenges. In Jordan, the urban older people focused on city transport, air quality, the importance of consultation, isolation and mental heath, poor medical services and supply of medicine, lack of support for older refugees, the importance of access to work for women, and health and financial assistance. In all three contexts they coincide that life doesn’t end at 60 and many feel at their prime then.

2) All participatory videos were shared at local, national and international level. That created new spaces for all key stakeholders to engage meaningfully in conversations with older people through screening events, where older people presented their videos. Amongst the international events, it was the official launch hosted by WHO with support of InsightShare and HelpAge International as well as the 48th Human Rights Commission side event on the elimination of ageism and age discrimination. At the 15th Global Conference on Ageing in Canada, WHO and HelpAge International also presented the project and some of its initial learnings.

3) The methodology and case studies were made public for other state and non-state actors to be able to use it throughout the Decade and engage older people in meaningful conversations that amplify their voices:


About the authors

MSc Soledad Muniz, Director of Programmes, InsightShare

Dr Mary Manandhar, Independent Consultant and former Technical Officer, WHO

Dr Tricia Jenkins, Senior Associate, InsightShare

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap