Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

‘The Taste Buddies’: participation and empowerment in a residential home for older people


The active participation and autonomy of older people living in residential homes is considered to be problematic. However, in our action research project conducted in a Dutch residential care organisation we found ways to enhance residents' direct participation. This form of participation is grounded in deliberative and participatory approaches to democracy. In this article we describe how a group of seven residents (all female), calling themselves ‘The Taste Buddies’, developed a joint vision on how meals could be improved. The facilitation of this process enhanced this group's empowerment, building interpersonal trust, social identity and joint purpose. We will take the reader through this process and discuss the developments of these older women against the background of relational empowerment. We argue that resident participation as partnership with employees and managers starts with relational empowerment among residents themselves (enclave deliberation). This process is non-linear and requires time and constructive facilitation.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Vivianne Baur, Department of Medical Humanities, VU Medical Centre, Van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam 1081 BT, The Netherlands. E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

S. Abbott , M. Fisk and L. Forward 2000. Social and democratic participation in residential settings for older people: realities and aspirations. Ageing & Society, 20, 327–40.

T. A. Abma , C. J. Nierse and G. A. M. Widdershoven 2009. Patients as partners in responsive research: methodological notions for collaborations in mixed research teams. Qualitative Health Research, 19, 3, 401–15.

M. Barnes and G. Bennett 1998. Frail bodies, courageous voices: older people influencing community care. Health and Social Care in the Community, 6, 2, 102–11.

M. Devitt and B. Checkoway 1982. Participation in nursing home resident councils: promise and practice. The Gerontologist, 22, 1, 4954.

C. P. Ferri , M. Prince , C. Brayne , H. Brodaty , L. Fratiglioni , M. Ganguli , K. Hall , K. Hasegawa , H. Hendrie , Y. Huang , A. Jorm , C. Mathers , P. R. Menezes , E. Rimmer and M. Scazufca 2005. Global prevalence of dementia: a Delphi consensus study. The Lancet, 366, 2112–7.

K. J. Gergen and M. M. Gergen 2008. Social construction and research as action. In P. Reason and H. Bradbury (eds), The Sage Handbook of Action Research. Participative Inquiry and Practice. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 159171.

R. E. Goodin and J. S. Dryzek 2006. Deliberative impacts: the macro-political uptake of mini-publics. Politics & Society, 34, 2, 219–44.

G. Hubbard , M. G. Downs and S. Tester 2003. Including older people with dementia in research: challenges and strategies. Aging & Mental Health, 7, 5, 351–62.

C. L. Johnson and B. M. Barer 1992. Patterns of engagement and disengagement among the oldest old. Journal of Aging Studies, 6, 4, 351–64.

C. F. Karpowitz , C. Raphael and A. S. Hammond 2009. Deliberative democracy and inequality: two cheers for enclave deliberation among the disempowered. Politics and Society, 37, 4, 576615.

J. Mackewn 2008. Facilitation as action research in the moment. In P. Reason and H. Bradbury (eds), The Sage Handbook of Action Research. Participative Inquiry and Practice. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 615–29.

M. H. Meyer 1991. Assuring quality of care: nursing home resident councils. The Journal of Applied Gerontology, 10, 1, 103–16.

P. Mitchell and T. Koch 1997. An attempt to give nursing home residents a voice in the quality improvement process: the challenge of frailty. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 6, 453–61.

J. Mullett 2008. Presentational knowing: bridging experience and expression with art, poetry and song. In P. Reason and H. Bradbury (eds), The Sage Handbook of Action Research. Participative Inquiry and Practice. Sage Publications, Los Angeles, 450–63.

C. J. Nierse and T. A. Abma 2011. Developing voice and empowerment: the first step towards a broad consultation in research agenda setting. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55, 4, 411–421.

M. Oliver 1992. Changing the social relations of research production. Disability, Handicap & Society, 7, 2, 101–15.

J. Rappaport 1995. Empowerment meets narrative: listening to stories and creating settings. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 5, 795808.

P. Reason and H. Bradbury (eds) 2008. The Sage Handbook of Action Research. Participative Inquiry and Practice. Sage Publications, Los Angeles.

J. Reed 2007. Appreciative Inquiry. Research for Change. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.

J. Reed and V. R. Payton 1997. Understanding the dynamics of life in care homes for older people: implications for de-institutionalizing practice. Health and Social Care in the Community, 5, 4, 261–8.

D. M. Ryfe 2006. Narrative and deliberation in small group forums. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 34, 1, 7293.

B. Simon 2004. Identity in Modern Society: A Social Psychological Perspective. Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Massachusetts.

L. Timoyijevic and M. M. Raats 2006. Evaluation of two methods of deliberative participation of older people in food-policy development. Health Policy, 82, 302–19.

J. Zeni 1998. Guide to ethical issues and action research. Educational Action Research, 6, 1, 919.

M. A. Zimmerman 2000. Empowerment theory. Psychological, organizational and community levels of analysis. In J. Rappaport and E. Seidman (eds), Handbook of Community Psychology. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, 4364.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 76 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 204 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.