Ageing and Society


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


a1 VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


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.

(Accepted July 20 2011)

(Online publication August 26 2011)


c1 Address for correspondence: Vivianne Baur, Department of Medical Humanities, VU Medical Centre, Van der Boechorststraat 7, Amsterdam 1081 BT, The Netherlands. E-mail: