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Thousands to shape £8 million age-friendly design projects

Over 5,000 people are to contribute their views, experiences and even their brain wave patterns to help shape the future design of our towns, cities and care homes so they meet the needs of older people.

Seven new research projects, that help older people to get around, enjoy and interact with the world more easily, through improved design of the built environment, have received an injection of 8 million funding from three of the country's research councils.

The projects span a range of subjects and disciplines and adopt a 'whole systems' approach to improving the design of the built environment. They will look at the challenges to, and opportunities for, older people enjoying an independent, active and mobile lifestyle.

Some will look at what deters older people from engaging in their community and physical activity such as walking and cycling, for example, the effects of Community Severance when neighbourhoods are divided by busy roads. One project will take data from brain scans taken while people are in different environments to gauge their perceptions, others will look at the design of new buildings and the retrofitting of older homes, while another will examine how residential care homes are designed.

Announcing the funding of just over 8 million, Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: "We need to do everything we can to meet the needs of our ageing population. These research projects will involve thousands of volunteers and draw on the expertise of Britain's leading universities to help older people live more healthily, happily and independently."

As part of a joint research council programme Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW), three of the UK's research councils, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), issued a call for research proposals (Design for Wellbeing: Ageing and Mobility in the Built Environment) in May 2012. These projects are the results of that call.

EPSRC's Chief Executive Professor David Delpy said: "These projects combine the expertise of engineers, social scientists and designers and will provide valuable insight into how people interact with the built environment throughout their lives. The development of this call also demonstrates how the research councils work together to address challenges that cross disciplines and remits."

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), said: "The challenge of designing for well-being within our ageing population and supporting communities to be more empowered and socially and culturally connected requires a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach. These ambitious new projects will bring together a wide range of expertise to re-imagine what our homes and our communities might look like in the years to come."

Professor Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of ESRC said: "These projects demonstrate how contributions from a wide range of disciplines can come together to have a potentially great impact on the lives of older people. They are diverse and address critical areas that enable older people to sustain their social networks which we know are so critical to lifelong health and wellbeing."

Project details are listed below.

For media enquiries contact:

The EPSRC Press Office. Tel: 01793 444 404, e-mail:

Project details:

Mobility, Mood and Place: a user-centred approach to design of built environments to make mobility easy, enjoyable and meaningful for older people. - EP/K037404/1 Led by Professor Catharine Ward Thompson - University of Edinburgh with academics from University of Edinburgh, King's College London, Heriot-Watt University and the Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York.

Grant value 1.3 Million

Mobility, Mood and Place explores how places can be designed collaboratively to make mobility easy, enjoyable and meaningful for older people. The three-year research project builds on evidence that how we experience environments influences our mood and, in turn, our willingness to be active. By understanding, and building on, the positive qualities that encourage people to go out and to participate in community life, the project team aims to influence policies on how places are planned and designed that enable older people to remain independent, to be inspired and to feel safe.

The project will draw on studies of older people's activity levels outdoors, see, along with work on the patterns, causes and effects of health conditions among groups of people. It will combine these with techniques in neuroscience involving brain imaging, such as EEGs.

The team will work in equal partnership with older people, including stroke survivors and people with Alzheimer's, to design better environments together. Another innovation is using mobile neural imaging methods to explore real-time emotional responses to place.

Working with data from people now in their 70s and 90s, the research is to consider the influence of local environments in which people have lived from childhood. This combination of approaches will help deliver new ideas about the design of places that support positive emotions, reduce anxiety, and encourage people to be more active and mobile, long into old age.

200 older people and 30 early career designers will be directly participating in the research (120 older people as part of the co-design work; 80 for the EEG work). Additionally, the team will be using data obtained from the Lothian Birth Cohorts, totalling a further 1,641 older people. The dissemination phase will engage hundreds of stakeholders from policy, practice and the not-for-profit sector

Project partners:

Age Scotland Alzheimer Scotland
anderson bell and christie Architecture and Design Scotland
Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland City of Edinburgh Council
Design for All Foundation Emotiv Lifesciences Inc
Landscape Institute Living Streets Scotland
Manchester City Council NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
NHS Lothian NHS Research Scotland
Stroke Association Sustrans

Press contacts:

Mire Cox M 07870 297 819
Edd McCraken Press and Public Relations Officer, University of Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 651 4400

Promoting Independent Cycling for Enhancing Later Life Experience and Social Synergy through Design (PrICELESS Design) - EP/K037242/1 led by Dr Tim Jones - Oxford Brookes University in collaboration with academics at University of Reading, University of the West of England, University of Cardiff.

Grant value 1.2 million

The team will use a novel mixed-methods approach with 240 participants from across four UK cities and will involve biographic interviews, secondary data analysis, mobile-interviews, and an experimental trial with new or returning cycle users.

The project will examine data from the UK and abroad to develop a toolkit for policy makers and practitioners. This will advise them on how the built environment and technology could be designed to support and promote cycling amongst current and future older generations. The findings will hopefully highlight how an ageing population can become or remain 'velomobile' and how this might benefit public health and wellbeing, as well as liveability of our cities.

Project Partners:

Age UK Bristol City Council British Electric Bicycle Association
CTC Department for Transport Film Oxford
Life Cycle UK Old Speak Publishing Oxfordshire County Council
RALEIGH UK LTD Reading Borough Council Cardiff City Council
Sustrans The Electric Transport Shop University of Brighton
University of Oxford

Press Contact: Matthew Butler, Senior Communications Officer
Oxford Brookes University
Tel: 01865 484630

MyPLACE: Mobility and PLace for the Age-friendly City Environment - EP/K037366/1 led by Professor Peter Wright - Newcastle University in collaboration with two academics at Northumbria University and eight at Newcastle University

Grant value 1.3 million

The aim of this project is to develop and test, through real-world research, a digital platform and toolkit that will enable members of the public to engage with local councils and other organisations more effectively in the research, planning and design of the urban environment. The project will work in collaboration with City Councils in the Northeast region and Newcastle's Age Friendly city initiative.

The team will involve 350 older people directly in design workshops and data gathering activities, but in addition will engage up to a further 1,000 older people on-line through the Voice North user panel.

Project partners:

Age UK Newcastle City Council North East Dementia Alliance
Social Inclusion through Digital Economy The Elders Council

Press Contact: Louella Houldcroft, Media Relations Manager, Newcastle University
Tel: 0191 222 5108 M: 07989 850511 or

BESiDE - The Built Environment for Social Inclusion in the Digital Economy EP/K037293/1 - Professor Vicki Hanson - University of Dundee in collaboration with academics at Newcastle University and Dundee.

Grant value 1.3 million

With changes in population demographics resulting in a growing number of care homes, economic, health and ethical considerations demand that attention be directed to effective means of creating an enabling built environment to provide older adults with healthy and socially fulfilling lives.

This research addresses a significant knowledge gap focussed on measures to mitigate problems and enhance the experience of older people within the built environment.

Through systematic analysis of the failings and successes of older people's care environments, the research will identify how better-informed building design can help greater mobility, physical activity, social connectedness and wellbeing of older people.

Project partners:

Balhousie Care Group Bupa Care Services Collective Architecture Limited
Healthfield Residential Home Ltd

Press Contact: Roddy Isles, Head of Press, University of Dundee
Tel: 01382 384910 M: 07800 581902

Co-design of the built environment for mobility in later life - EP/K03748X/1 - Professor Becky Tunstall - University of York in collaboration with academics at University of Leeds, Newcastle University and Northumbria University.

Grant value: 1.2 million

The project will be working with about 120 older people across three sites in Northern England. It will focus on older people going through critical but common life transitions which may affect well-being and mobility - such as, losing a driving licence, losing a partner, sight deterioration or becoming a carer.

Older people will be asked to participate in a series of interviews to explore mobility and wellbeing over time. Smaller groups will participate actively in the research through a series of workshops, interviews and co-design sessions, helping to develop and test innovations such as crowd sourcing about mobility barriers, mobility apps, adaptations to mobility scooters, and means to overcome conflicts between the needs of different users of urban space.

The project will co-create practical tools which can act as complements or alternatives to redesign of the built environment. It will produce a website and report at its conclusion.

The team will investigate and address variation and contradictions in needs of different groups of older people (and even for single individuals over time), and between different built environment agendas.

Project partners:

City of York Council Forum of Mobilty Centre
Leeds City Council Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Living Streets MRC-McLean Hazel Ltd
North of England Civic Trust Royal Town Planning Institute
The Design Council Thomas Pocklington Trust
York Blind and Partially Sighted Society

Press Contact: David Garner, Senior Press Officer, University of York.
Tel:01904 322 153

Street mobility and accessibility: developing tools for overcoming older people's barriers to walking - EP/K037323/1 led Dr Jennifer Mindell UCL

Grant value 1.3 million

Streets full of traffic can sever communities. This project will examine the effects of community severance (CS), when busy roads act as a barrier or deterrent to people's mobility. The team will study four residential areas to develop an in-depth understanding and measure of CS. They will ask local residents what is important to them and observe what happens in practice when older people try to walk around their neighbourhood.

The project will consider all this information in the context of the urban design characteristics; street layout; and the levels, speed and composition of road traffic in the area.

The project aims to develop and test three tools. Two will be for local government use, to model and to value levels of CS in their area. The third will be a set of questions that can be asked in surveys to find out whether and how severance affects local people. The tools can be used by local government to test proposed transport policies, development plans and interventions to assess whether they will affect severance. They can also be used by researchers to find out whether and how CS affects people's mobility, social isolation, and short- and long-term health and wellbeing. The survey can also be used in national surveys so that a more complete picture of this problem is obtained across the UK.

Project partners:

ADEPT British Geriatrics Society Inukshuk Consultancy
National Heart Forum Transport and Health Study Group
UK Faculty of Public Health

Press Contact: Clare Ryan, Media Relations Manager, UCL
Tel:0203 108 3846 M:07747 565 056

How better design can facilitate mobility, connectivity & wellbeing for older people: a participatory approach to design research. - EP/K03717X/1 - Professor Sarah Wigglesworth - University of Sheffield

Grant value 640K

This three year research project will try to understand how the design and management of housing and neighbourhoods can be improved to better support the mobility of older people and their participation in community life.

Working in partnership with older people and professionals, the research aims to develop a number of prototype designs for housing and neighbourhoods that better facilitate older people's mobility. It also aims to improve professionals' abilities to design, develop and manage age-friendly places.

The team will recruit a suitable community of approximately 300 older people to participate in an in-depth survey of older people's experience of the failures or successes of the built environment from the perspective of varying levels of mobility.

This will identify barriers to, and, accessed through UK Online, in collaboration with Age UK.

They will then approach approximately 50 older people (and their invited carers) based in Sheffield, which will explore the detailed picture of older people's interaction with their environment according to their levels of mobility and limiting illness (such as dementia). Later they will test design scenarios through focus groups and interviews with this group.

The project is mainly concerned with both the design of newly built housing and the surrounding environment and the re-fitting of existing housing and neighbourhoods.

The team are focusing the research on standard housing, rather than care homes for older people, as this will help to meet the needs of older people who wish to remain in their own homes.

Press Contact: Shemina Davis, Media Relations Manager, University of Sheffield
Tel: 0114 222 5339


Contact: EPSRC Press Office
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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