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Material Citizenship Framework Project

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Principal Investigator: Professor Jackie Bridges (Professor of Older People's Care, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton)

Co-investigator: Dr Kellyn Lee (Research Fellow, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton)

Collaborator: Zoe McCallum (Chief Operating Officer, Brendoncare)

Start: 1 February 2020

Ends: 30 November 2021

Project partners: Brendoncare Foundation.

Co-funded by ESCR Impact Acceleration Account, Alzheimer’s Society Brendoncare Foundation

Lay summary

Moving into a care home is a significant and often life changing transition.  Everyday objects can make this easier.  Whilst it is widely believed that care homes encourage new residents to bring personal possessions with them, a recent study found this not to be the case.  Only certain objects are encouraged in care homes and people with a dementia are often excluded from deciding which objects they take with them. Material citizenship is a conceptual framework that focuses on the interactions people have with objects, for example, access to a preferred coffee cup or being able to use a hairdryer or a pair of hair straighteners. Material citizenship emphasises the use of objects as way of enabling staff to support residents live a meaningful life.

We are collaborating with Brendoncare to develop a training programme that will educate staff on the importance of objects in everyday life and how to include objects in care assessments and care planning.  The training programme has been developed as an online training programme (due to COVID-19 restrictions on visitors to care homes).  It will be delivered to care home staff in two separate two and a half hour sessions.  The first session will introduce material citizenship, what it means and what it can do. The second session will focus on embedding material citizenship in care assessments and care planning. Following a four-week period after its implementation, care home staff will be interviewed to gain an understanding of how they found the educational programme, how confident they are working with a material citizenship approach, whether they think it improves the care they deliver and the conditions needed to work with a material citizenship approach.

This research will help us understand what changes might be needed to get organisations ready to reimagine care home life.  It will also mean we can identify which staff are more likely to adopt this way of working. This will likely benefit care organisations in recruiting staff who can work in a complex care environment whilst still providing person centred.

We will use the findings to review and revise the material citizenship training programme with a plan to secure necessary approvals for a wider study. We will also seek to strengthen existing connections with Abbeyfield Society, AbiCare, Hamble Heights and Hampshire County Council to explore the introduction of material citizenship within their adult services.


Material Citizenship: An ethnographic study exploring object–person relations in the context of people with dementia in care homes