The above is a product of a brainstorm that took place in the context of a University of Manchester UMRI Workshop on Ageing, Mobility and Well-being that took place in Manchester on Friday 24 May 2013. Discussions led to the generation of a number of research ideas, including:
• What matters? Just how do elderly people interact with a range of artefacts (e.g. physical objects, technology etc.), and are there different material realities across different cohorts? There are numerous studies following cohorts of elderly people. Might there be opportunities for tracing how the millennium cohort engages and interacts with elderly people? Would this provide some clues as to how different artefacts engender interactions between people? Who benefits? And what time frames are we talking about? Are there objects that remain timeless? There was also discussion of engagement with a number of
companies, e.g. Google, Amazon, Starbucks, that are very powerful and operate beyond national boundaries to see how they are engaging with different age cohorts.
• Complexity and applications to understanding system behaviour and ‘futureproofing’: understanding the dynamics of ageing, mobility and wellbeing is complex. Yet, there are a number of methodological approaches to study complexity. There is also a risk of reducing complexity in reality through the methods we employ in understanding complexity. So, there is scope for encouraging conversations between researchers using different methodological approaches to study complexity. There was also discussion around the use of data, and the possibility of looking at asking fresh questions that could lead to better understanding mobility among elderly people by revisiting existing datasets (e.g. Oyster Card data). This raises the question as to how elderly people leave (data) traces.
• Public spaces in the city: the discussion revolved around the boundaries between public and private spaces, and acknowledged the growing privatisation of public space. This has implications for designing urban spaces that will encourage mobility among, and be more inclusive for, older people. The discussion also centred on how understanding the publicprivate boundaries can help better inform standards and policies around the design of public spaces.
These ideas were then developed in a second round of discussions, revolved around the following themes:
• Infrastructure: there was a suggestion that what mattered most was to better understand design dimensions in the ‘home’ environment, where older people spend a lot of time in. This developed into a discussion on infrastructure, an elastic concept that connects the physical, built environment with transportation infrastructure and access to essential health and social care services, and engagement with the natural environment. It was also accepted that some infrastructure works well and becomes ubiquitous. People also sense that something is amiss when things go wrong. So, there is scope to study what works
well and why problems arise when they do. The maintenance of infrastructure was also deemed to be critical. This led to the idea of examining the retrofitting of infrastructure for age-friendliness, e.g. the Oxford Road Corridor in Manchester.
• Data and smart cities: following on from the discussion on complexity, the discussion on data revolved around how we can collect and analyse real-time data to understanding interactions and develop interventions. There is the gap of trying to link disparate datasets, and to explore the possibilities of connecting real-time data analysis and automatic interventions. For example, there is the possibility of detecting lack of activity in the home/community so that interventions can be triggered for the benefit of the elderly people.
• Space: the discussion developed from earlier conversations about public spaces in the city, centring upon way-finding of older people, especially those with dementia. The discussion emphasised the need to educate designers on how the built environment and design of spaces can affect the physical and mental well-being of older people. There was discussion over developing design codes to facilitate better, more inclusive designs. This also raises the question on the relationship between older people and wider society and how inclusion/exclusion is perceived through the spaces we create, re-create and use.
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A final workshop in the present phase of this future European project is to take place in Manchester on 14-15 November. This workshop will see participants work on developing the ideas further into plausible research proposals.
For further information on this project and workshop series contact:
Dr. Paul W Chan
Lecturer in Project Management
Editor, Construction Management and Economics
Secretary, Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM)
School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering
University of Manchester
Pariser Building (Room E17)
Manchester M13 9PL
T: +44 (0) 161 275 4319
F: +44 (0) 161 306 3723
M: +44 (0) 774 783 5506
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