The needs of older people are to be given special consideration with regards to how cities and care homes are designed, with the announcement of £8m in funding for research projects to this end spearheaded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
A total of seven research projects will see some 5,000 people contributing their views and experiences to help improve designs of the built environment, specifically to allow older people to get around and enjoy and interact with the world more easily.
A range of subjects and disciplines will be harnessed in adopting a ‘whole systems’ approach to make built-environment designs better suited to the aged.
The projects set out to discover what deters older people from engaging in their community and physical activity, such as walking and cycling.
“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,” said David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, at the funding announcement.
One project, Mobility, Mood and Place, is to look into data from brain scans taken while people are in different environments to gauge their perceptions. The aim is to 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.
Another project is set to look into the design of new buildings and also retrofitting older homes. A further project intends to examine how residential care homes are designed.
The projects are the results of a call for research proposals in May 2012 by joint research council programme Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW), led by the EPSRC in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
“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,” said Professor Paul Boyle, chief executive of ESRC.