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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K037404/1
Title: Mobility, Mood and Place: a user-centred approach to design of built environments to make mobility easy, enjoyable and meaningful for older people
Principal Investigator: Ward Thompson, Professor CJ
Other Investigators:
Coyne, Professor RD Shortt, Professor NK Thin, Dr N
Roe, Dr J Pearce, Professor JR Tinker, Professor A
Mead, Professor G Cinderby, Dr S Deary, Professor IJ
Scott, Mr I Aspinall, Professor PA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Age UK 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
Manchester City Council NHS Stroke Association (to be replaced)
Department: Edinburgh College of Art
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2013 Ends: 30 April 2017 Value (£): 1,273,657
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Construction Transport Systems and Vehicles
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Mar 2013 EPSRC Design for Well Being Full Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Recent research shows that remaining active is a vital component in healthy ageing and that exercise provides protection against mental decline in old age. People are more mobile if they live in an appropriate environment, one that is safe, accessible and has good services. To date, much guidance has focused on overcoming barriers in the environment, such as steps without handrails or poor quality lighting. Removing such barriers is important but this approach alone will not encourage people to be more active. We need to understand the positive qualities that encourage people to go out, remain mobile, and give them pleasure into very old age. Our proposal builds on growing evidence that mood and emotion influence people's willingness to be active, which is in turn influenced by the experience of different environments - the 'mood' of one place versus another.

Places need to be attractive, in order to support positive moods, and to draw people into them. Some places offer peace and quiet, others offer sociability, excitement or a sense of fun. The environment needs to offer different opportunities according to how people feel at the time. Well-designed places don't automatically put people in a good mood, but we think places that match the emotional needs of the moment contribute to a self-reinforcing virtuous cycle. If the mood of a place is right then people will get out and about, feel better, take better care of their environment, and think of their environment more positively.

Positive emotions broaden people's awareness and encourage them to think and act in novel ways, and to be more curious and exploratory, both mentally and physically. Environments that encourage positive moods affect how competent people are at carrying out everyday tasks, such as preparing meals, going to the shops or planning an outing. People who feel competent are more likely to focus on the positive, to feel well, to make healthy choices, and to be more mobile.

We will draw on our studies of the patterns, causes, and effects of health conditions among groups of people (epidemiology), combined with techniques in neuroscience involving brain imaging. We will also work in equal partnership with older people, including stroke survivors and people with dementia, to design together better environments. This innovative combination of approaches will help us to 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. Well-designed and maintained environments should make mobility an easy, enjoyable and meaningful choice.

Our research is structured around four Work Packages involving: (1) designing together with older people, (2) examining data from recordings of neural signals (EEG) while people are moving through different environments, (3) studying information from a large group of older people born in the 1920s and 30s, to understand patterns of environment, activity and health over their life course, and (4) working with partners to evaluate and share our results and develop illustrated, user-friendly guidance on how to provide better environments in future.

Our team of researchers has expertise in environment, health, wellbeing, social policy and collaborative design, with an excellent track record of past Research Council and other major grants. We have experience in providing design guidance for the built environment, innovative approaches to measuring people's responses to their environment, working with them to understand their preferences, and analysing the implications of results. We also have experience in mapping important aspects of the environment.

To maximise the impact of our research, we will mobilise our ongoing partnerships with policy-makers at national and local government level, with professional bodies, and with third sector organisations supporting older people and age-friendly environmental design.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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