Place-Making with Older Adults: Towards Age-Friendly Communities


‘Place-Making with Older People: Towards Age Friendly Communities’ is a £808,289 Research Project funded by ESRC-Newton Fund. It is a partnership project led by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, and Federal University of Pelotas, in Pelotas, Brazil. The research commenced in May 2016 and will be concluded in April 2019.

 Ageing populations in the UK and Brazil have generated new challenges in how to best design urban environments that support and promote everyday social engagement and healthy urban living for older people. As they age older adults face declining physical and cognitive capacities, changes to their living arrangements and loss of social supports. In response to this, the ageing-in-place agenda has become an important issue in redefining policy for older. The ageing-in-place agenda posits that the preferred environment for older adults to age is in the community, where they can remain active, engaged, socially connected, and independent. However, contemporary urban cities can be ‘unfriendly’ and ‘hostile’ to older adults, acting as a barrier to accessing social, economic and civic opportunities.

 This research recognizes that simply changing the built form is not sufficient to create a more inclusive environment for ageing since places are more than physical spaces. Viable environments are articulated through a strong sense of place, defined as the social, psychological and emotional bonds that people have with their environment. A strong sense of place results from having access to supports for active participation, opportunities to build and sustain social networks, and assuming a meaningful role in the community. In contrast a feeling of displacement or ‘placelessness’ is associated with alienation, isolation and loneliness, often resulting in adverse health and well-being outcomes, particularly amongst vulnerable older adults. Societally, the creation of age friendly urban environments that support sense of place is integral to successful ageing ensuring that older adults can continue to make a positive contribution in old age, delaying the need for institutional care and reducing health and social care costs.

News & Events

  • Article posted today by the research group PlaceAge UK!

    Title: "EXPLORING AGE-FRIENDLY CITIES IN THE UK AND BRAZIL: THE PLACEAGE PROJECT"July 30, 2018;Author: Ryan Woolrych."Population ageing and urbanisation have raised challenges in terms of how we can best…
  • Signing the mission of PlaceAge team Brazil-UK at IAPS 2018, in Rome-Italy #ERCS #NewtonFund

    From July 8 to 13 in Rome, researchers from the PlaceAge Research Team participated in the 25th IAPS (International Association People-Environment Studies) conference. The theme proposed in this issue…
  • The second edition of the Place Age 2018 Newsletter has been published!

    On July 11, 2018, the second edition of the Place Age newsletter was published. Among other information, this edition presents an overview of the participatory mapping carried out with the elderly in…


Duration of the Research: May 2016 — April 2019

This research was awarded and is totally funded by ESRC (the Economic & Social Research Council) under its Urban Transformations in Brasil Research Programme

This research was submitted to the ‘Healthy Urban Living and the Social Science of the Food-Water-Energy Nexus: UK-Brazil Calls for Collaborative Research’. The results from this Call can be found here.

Research-Project Fund Awarded: £808,289


Research Question we aim to answer:

How is sense of place experienced by older adults from different social classes living in diverse neighbourhoods in Brazil and the UK?

What services, amenities and features are needed to create age friendly communities that promote healthy cities and active ageing in different urban and cultural contexts?

How can communities be designed to better integrate the sense of place needs of older adults across different urban and cultural contexts?

This research has three core aims:

(i) to investigate how sense of place is experienced by older people from different social settings living in diverse neighbourhoods in Brazil and the UK;

(ii) to translate these experiences into designs for age friendly communities that support sense of place; and

(iii) to better articulate the role of older adults as active placemakers in the design process by involving the community at all stages of the research.


This research is undertaken a cross-national case study approach. Experiential research involving older adults and place have primarily been conducted as single-nation studies. Whilst these studies have made an important contribution to the research picture, there is a tendency to generalise outcomes and assume tools and resources are applicable across different national contexts. A comparative, multiple, cross-national case study approach is needed to understand the diversity of place-based experiences of older adults, and how this is influenced by neighbourhood, social contexts, welfare regimes and processes of urban governance and planning. 

This research selected three cities as case studies in Brazil (Brasilia, Pelotas, Belo Horizonte) and three cities as case studies in the UK (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester). The case study cities have been selected to represent a broad spectrum of urban areas, in terms of demography (mixed tenures by age), inequality (health and social disparities between high and low income groups), topography (different types of urban densities and form) and urban development (varying levels of physical transformation and change).




The research comprise three linked Work Packages (WP). Here we will describing the main outputs and the future development of the work per WP.

Contact Us

Dr. Ryan Woolrych

Principal Investigator in the UK

Heriot-Watt University
School of the Built Environment

Dr. Nadia Goodman

Project Manager in UK

University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh College of Art

Dr. Adriana Portella

Principal Investigator in Brazil

Federal University of Pelotas
School of Architecture and Planning

MA. Sirlene de Mello Sopeña

Project Manager in Brazil

Federal University of Pelotas
School of Architecture and Urbanism