Early Stage Researcher, UEF – Nordic-UK Brain Network (UEF-NBN)

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101034307.

Care trajectories and transitions as predictors for late life social wellbeing

Welfare, Health and Management (WELMA) Doctoral Programme


Assistant Professor Elisa Tiilikainen, Department of Social Sciences, UEF, primary supervisor
Associate Professor Alina Solomon, Institute of Clinical Medicine, UEF
University Lecturer Anna Mäki-Petäjä-Leinonen, Law School, UEF

The Department of Social Sciences is a research unit at the at Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies
UEF – Nordic-UK Brain Network (UEF-NBN)

This research project needs the participation of people with passion for excellence in multidisciplinary gerontological research and societal impact. We are looking for candidates who seek to contribute to brain health innovation research with a keen eye on the application of research knowledge to the problems and challenges of society and elder care. Ideal candidates want to open their minds to intersecting and complementary fields of science, seeking a multi/interdisciplinary approach in research. The candidates should have a desire to approach organizations that will benefit from science when developing social and health care services and processes for older adults.

The academic profile of the candidate should be in the social sciences and gerontological research, with the idea of complementing this background throughout PhD studies. Overall, the candidate must be willing to combine complementary areas of knowledge in neurosciences, data sciences, social sciences, applied physics and/or law to complete the thesis project. Moreover, the candidate is required to have good methodological skills, especially in longitudinal analyses. As far as soft skills are concerned, we welcome candidates with a proactive, collaborative attitude, and who are enthusiastic about building, creating, and working in teams. Excellent candidates desire to participate in activities concerning multi- and interdisciplinary ageing research, and are willing to spend some time abroad with our international partners and outside the university in our partner institutions.

Gerontology, social and public policy, social and health care services

Deficits in social wellbeing, such as loneliness and social isolation, are known to have significant individual and societal costs, as well as an impact on brain health in different life phases. Poor social wellbeing has been associated with cognitive decline, depression, increased mortality, and increased use of health services. Existing research shows that challenges in social wellbeing are common among older adults, particularly those with functional disabilities and unmet care needs. Using longitudinal data and analyses, the study examines different care trajectories and transitions as predictors for poor and/or high social wellbeing in later life. Care trajectories include e.g. use of social and health care services and informal care. Care transitions may be understood as different stages of diagnosis or treatment, for example. The study utilises existing quantitative survey and register data collected in Finland and/or other countries. The research topic is scrutinized using a multidisciplinary approach including social gerontology, elder law, and clinical medicine. The study provides novel understanding that can be used in developing preventive practises and interventions to support social wellbeing and brain health in later life.

The candidate can also suggest their own topic or modify this topic in their motivation letter.


Publications related to the PhD topic:

  • Neuvonen, E., Hall, A., Tolppanen, A. M., Ngandu, T., Rusanen, M., Laatikainen, T., … & Solomon, A. (2020). Late‐life personality traits, cognitive impairment, and mortality in a population‐based cohort. International journal of geriatric psychiatry, 35(9), 989-999.
  • Tiilikainen, E., Hujala, A., Kannasoja, S., Rissanen, S., & Närhi, K. (2019). “They’re always in a hurry”–Older people´ s perceptions of access and recognition in health and social care services. Health & social care in the community, 27(4), 1011-1018.
  • Ristolainen, H., Kannasoja, S., Tiilikainen, E., Hakala, M., Närhi, K., & Rissanen, S. (2020). Effects of ‘participatory group-based care management’on wellbeing of older people living alone: a randomized controlled trial. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 89, 104095.
  • Nikumaa, H., & Mäki-Petäjä-Leinonen, A. (2020). Counselling of people with dementia in legal matters–social and health care professionals’ role. European Journal of Social Work, 23(4), 685-698.

Research projects related to the PhD topic:

This PhD research topic covers the following complementary areas of knowledge: gerontology, social and public policy, social and health care services, informal and formal care.

The PhD project will be co-supervised by a team of three scientists with expertise in social gerontology, medicine and elder law.

To advance multi/interdisciplinary collaboration, three Summer Schools will be organised jointly by the Neuro-Innovation supervisors and non-academic partners. In these, multi-/interdisciplinarity and intersectoral exchange will be implemented via hands-on interaction between PhD students, supervisors, partners and other stakeholders.

  • Neuro-ethics and patient rights, 3 ECTS credits. Research ethics, patient rights, data security.
  • Neuro-data Hackathon, 3 ECST credits. Open and big data.
  • Neuro-Innovation Living Lab, 3 ECST credits. Entrepreneurial processes and commercialisation paths.

Virtual Platform for multi/interdisciplinary interaction will connect all PhD students in this programme.

The academic partner organisations, such as the Institute of Neuroscience at the University of Barcelona (see others from the Neuro-Innovation webpage), will collaborate closely with us in PhD training and students are strongly encouraged to include a secondment and visits with these partners in their studies. During shorter visits (1-4 weeks), you will learn more about research and methods and build international networks. During secondments, you will work on the host organisation’s research project under the supervision of the co-supervisor from the hosting organisation and utilise their infrastructure. You can also attend courses, seminars, and other events in the host organisations.


The Societal Impact Board of this PhD programme with 14 intersectoral partners will collaborate closely with us in PhD training, for instance on the following activities:

  • Neuro-Innovation Talent Hub: monthly gathering with special guests (e.g., researchers, professionals, business experts, stakeholders) and discussions about research topics and career prospects.
  • Neuro-Innovation Boot Camp: yearly competition concerning the utilisation of research results.

Close collaboration with non-governmental organisations including patients and/or older adults, for example, is highly recommended.

Apply the position

High quality research and publications of excellence are a way to solve societal problems and challenges. This vision is shared by the collaborating partners in this doctoral program, and involvement with various stakeholders will allow the pursuit of a goal with potential for brain health innovation. The University of Eastern Finland pursues societal impact that goes beyond academia focusing on the transformation of society, leading to fairer and more diverse societies, where inclusive social development and welfare are enhanced. The objective of the proposed research is to advance understanding of social and health care related risks for poor social wellbeing, and therefore contribute to developing better care and treatment throughout life.

The UEF policy on gender equality and equal opportunities is based on Finnish legislation and the values of the university. The goal of gender equality and equal opportunities at the university is to identify and prevent expressions, structures and functions that maintain or increase inequality and to promote gender equality and equal opportunities at all levels. The university has a Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities Programme, which describes the measures intended to implement and promote gender equality and equal opportunities among staff and students. The university takes an active approach to promoting equal opportunities and acting against discrimination.

The University of Eastern Finland is the most multidisciplinary university in Finland. We are home to 15,500 students and 2,700 staff members. Our research is ranked among the best in the world in several fields (inc. forest sciences). We generate research-based knowledge and make it openly accessible for the benefit of all. UEF stands for action with impact that is relevant today and tomorrow. To learn more about our university please visit our website at www.uef.fi/en.