Personal profile


Penny Sorensen is a Senior Research Associate with a special interest in families and older people living in their communities. She worked as a radiographer before coming to UEA in 2004 to study on the Psychosocial Sciences programme. She also teaches qualitative research methods on the Psychology programme.

Educational background

2008-2012 PhD 'Older men living alone: a photo-elicitation study of their social worlds' (ESRC funded)

2007-2008 MA (Distinction) Child and Family Research, University of East Anglia, Norwich.
Dissertation title: ‘Discovering the Process of Becoming a Grandfather: Using Grounded Theory’.

2004-2007 BSc Hons. (Starred First Class) Psychosocial Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich.

Key Research Interests

Qualitative research methods: interviewing, grounded theory, visual methods.
Older people: living alone, ageing masculinities, grandfathers, intergenerational ties, social connectedness.

The title of Penny's research project is:

Visions and voices of older men living alone

The gender gap in life expectancy is narrowing and there is a significant rise in one-person, male households, making the need for well-contextualised understanding of issues relating to potential loneliness and social isolation in old age ever more pertinent. As the proportion of older people in the population grows, interest in older people and ageing has increased in recent years alongside a growing recognition that ageing itself is a gendered experience. The likelihood of such gendered loneliness or connectedness in older men’s lives is the focus of this study.

As relatively little is known about older men’s views of relationships and losses of relationships, one research challenge is to avoid stereotyping the men taking part in the study.  Hence, ways were sought to enable them to be in control of choosing issues important to them. This study is therefore collaborative, using informant-generated photographs for photo-elicitation interviews with the men whose experiences are being explored. Men from Norfolk, England, were given cameras to photograph their daily lives and the subsequent images were used as a tool for eliciting talk during the interview.

As women constitute the majority of older people, support and services tend to be geared towards them, often to the exclusion of older men and their interests. This research will contribute to much-needed understanding of the experience of living alone as an older man.  It will shed light on the social relationships older men value and the activities they enjoy, with implications for how other types of formal and informal support may or may not support what is relevant to their social inclusion.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or