Aelwyn Williams Research assistant: work 14 January 2021

As an example of how we’ve been trying to make a difference during the Covid-19 pandemic, one of our researchers, Aelwyn Williams, managed to work with his network of contacts to produce support material that is featured on the S4C website for those who were self-isolating, caring for others with dementia or with loved ones in isolation in hospital. To do this, he first got in contact with the Matia Instituto, a research institute based in The Basque Country, Spain. The organisation has been integral to developing policies for an Age-Friendly Basque Country.

“At that time, cases in the Basque country were about 3-4 weeks ahead of us, and I’d been really impressed by the infographic content and supportive advice that the Matia Instituto was publishing every week, so I decided to contact Elena, a researcher I’d met previously at British Society of Gerontology conference in Manchester. Outside of my role at the Awen Institute, I also work with some media companies and I’m responsible for S4C’s website Support pages, which are there for people who may be affected by any sensitive or traumatic content,” Aelwyn said.

Having secured permission and encouragement to use the content from the Basque colleagues, Aelwyn then asked for both expert opinion from the wider team involved in ageing research at Swansea University, and some practical, on-the-ground advice from Dementia Matters in Powys, an organisation that he’s been involved with as part of his studies into dementia friendly communities.

“I was keen to involve as many voices as was practical, but to try and get the advice published bilingually as soon as possible, because we could all see that the situation with the virus was getting much worse. Even in those early weeks, it was clear that people would be having difficulties adapting to the lockdown, and that this would have a detrimental effect on some of the people that are part of our collective networks as researchers into ageing, including on a personal level.

“I was already hearing this through listening to those living with dementias, mainly through webinars organised by the Three Nations Working group and DEEP (the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project). However, those involved in the Meeting Centres movement in Powys, organised by DMIP, gave invaluable help in shaping some of this content,” said Aelwyn.

Aelwyn was determined to try and use whatever industry and other contacts he had to try and co-produce some useful signposting information for those who watch and enjoy S4C’s programming. He was able to adapt and change some of the content accordingly, as well as translating into Welsh and English – from Basque and Spanish.

Viewing figures went up quite dramatically for many broadcasters during the lockdown, including S4C. The broadcaster was also very agile in adapting its programming when faced with big gaps in the schedule because live events, for example, had ground to a halt. In addition, many TV content companies had to adapt their working practices to continue content creation.

S4C managed to commission a range of drama and other content which specifically dealt with the situation as it was happening including dramas such as Cyswllt (Mewn Covid), as well as the usual current affairs and news output. However from Aelwyn’s other work with companies such as Tinopolis – based in Llanelli, which is responsible for lifestyle and chat type programmes – he could see how people might turn to the escapism and comforts of the box and familiar faces in such times. Viewing figures shot up for a whole range of programming, and Aelwyn was glad that he could at least offer some signposted advice for any programming which dealt with Covid directly, as well as the usual service.

On the basis of this spontaneous project, Aelwyn has been able to get some further funding to try and develop this relationship with the Matia Instituto, who also managed to get funding form the Basque Government to explore co-working on knowledge exchange and developing joint initiatives:

Aelwyn added: “There’s a memorandum of understanding between the Welsh and Basque governments and to be honest, as someone who used to live out there, I’ve always been keen to think of ways in which we could form closer links with a part of the world which has many similarities to Wales.

“Through my work at the Awen Institute, I can see that there may be many opportunities for this to happen, and not just at an institutional level. Like us, the Basques have a vibrant cultural and creative scene, and also quite advanced industrial and business know-how, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we can potentially develop some ideas and use some of the new, exciting possibilities around Awen, including perhaps our Living Lab facilities.”


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