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University Challenge: Translating research into real world impact

“As researchers we need to understand the life world of older people to ensure our smart neighbourhoods are truly responsive and supportive during the known trials and unexpected tribulations of later life”.

These are the words of David Prendergast, Professor of Science, Technology & Society, at Maynooth University, who kicked off one of the liveliest sessions at the AAA ISO Ageing Societies Leaders Forum.

David provided some fascinating insights into the lives, skills, practices of older adults through in-depth case studies. This underlines his strong belief in the need to include older adults at every stage in the research process. Drawing on a wide database of qualitative studies David described the key themes that older adults qualified as important for age-friendly connected environments. These include:

i) Feeling safe, ii) supporting cognition, iii) supporting physical activities, iv) bringing health care home, v) help getting care, vi) enabling social interaction, vii) meaningful and useful life and, viii) environments of choice.

David is aiming to explore these themes as part of SHAPES, a 21 million Euro, 4 year, demonstrator project, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. AAA is one of 34 academic and private sector partners across 14 countries. Our focus is to better understand the life course of older adults, and their relationship with the built environment. We have been working closely with David and his team at Maynooth, with a view to creating, what David describes as ‘an open ecosystem, enabling the large-scale deployment of digital solutions for healthy independent living, addressed to older individuals who face reduced functionality and capabilities’.

Ageing in place means more than continuing to live among the comforts and memories of home

From a SHAPES perspective, it means creating safe environments which support older adults to have a purpose and foster good social connections between generations. According to David, a well designed ISO framework could ensure that we properly plan for the whole bio-psycho-social context to support ageing well. Take a look at David’s presentation for further insights and detail.

Judith Phillips, Deputy Principal (Research) and Research Director UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge, University of Stirling, presented an extraordinary overview of 30 years of research led innovation. Providing insights relating to the development of a new Intergenerational Living Innovation Hub, Judith stressed the import of factoring dementia and other mental health considerations into design thinking from the outset. The new Stirling community demonstrator will include model homes and retail units to provide novel construction, environmental and digital innovations.

Emphasizing the need for inclusive design, based on evidence and knowledge, Judith says research needs to encompass the lived experiences and take account of a life course perspective which recognises the diversity and different environmental conditions and context of ageing, as well as the difference and diversity among older people.

Ageing in the right place

Co-creation developed through a process of multi stakeholder engagement and collective dialogue is essential if we are to arrive at a shared understanding of what success looks like within the local community, says Judith. She made an important argument that we need to be looking at ‘ageing in the right place’ not just about ‘ageing in place’.

Moreover, Judith says we need to challenge the policy rhetoric about independent living in favour of supporting interdependent living within multigenerational communities. Hence, in order to develop standards around this we would need to fast-track knowledge and research to produce a robust evidence base, drawing on principles of co-creation and establishing a shared understanding of what success looks like with the local community.

In conclusion, Judith stressed that we must include user views and community at the heart of the ISO standard development. Building on what is being adopted in one area and transferring that to other areas.

Watch video and view the presentations at www.agileageing.org. Follow this link to find out what others spoke about. Tomorrow we will bring you part two of University Challenge.