PlaceAge research is currently being undertaken across two ESRC funded projects in the United Kingdom, Brazil and India exploring how older adults experiences ageing across different urban, social and cultural contexts.
‘Place-Making with Older People: Towards Age Friendly Communities’ is a £808,289 UK-Brazil Research Project funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-Newton Fund which commenced in May 2016 and will be concluded in April 2019. ‘Ageing Well in Urban Environments: Developing Age Friendly Cities and Communities’ is an ESRC-ICSSR (Indian Council of Social Science Research) funded UK-India research project which began in May 2018 and will run over 24 months (£404,827). These projects are co-led by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, the Federal University of Pelotas, in Pelotas, Brazil and Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, India.
Ageing populations in the UK, Brazil and India 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 people. 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.
These research projects recognize 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. Through developing a cross-cultural experiential understandings of ageing-in-the-right-place which take into account transformations in both, person and place, our research recognises the importance for developing age-friendly urban spaces that respond to different environmental, social and political frameworks.