Understanding the positive and negative ‘hot spots’ in the city that impact on older people’s mobility

Posted on 1 October 2014

Older people living in cities could enjoy better quality of life thanks to new research that brings them together with the next generation of urban designers and charts their emotional responses to their surroundings.

MMP Research

Photo Credit: MMP

How a city’s environment affects behaviour and mood will be explored in a study that will see older people connected to mobile neural imaging devices taking to the streets of streets of Edinburgh.

Another small study in Hackney Wick, East London, will complement findings from the main study, which is taking part in Leith, Edinburgh in 120 older people aged 65+. 


MMP logoThe study – based in Hackney Wick – invites older residents of Hackney Wick to collaborate as co-researchers in identifying what makes for good, age-friendly design. It is part of a wider project called Mobility, Mood and Place, which aims to make pedestrian mobility easy, enjoyable and more meaningful for older people.

MMP HeadsetThe researchers use neural imaging equipment which produce electroencephalograms (EEG) – recordings of brain activity which tracks the messages that brain cells continually send to one another. It does so by picking up small electrical impulses on the scalp.

‌The custom-built headsets help researchers locate an environment’s negative and positive ‘hot spots’ that may affect an older person’s emotional state and mobility. As well as their use in Hackney Wick, the headsets are being used in carefully controlled experiments with older participants in Edinburgh.

Dr Jenny Roe from SEI says

 “We’re using the latest EEG mobile technology to understand how we can optimize mobility for older people in our city and aim to make recommendations for the design of inclusive, health-promoting, age friendly cities. “

The researchers will work with small groups of older people in Hackney Wick to understand their experiences and memories of the area, using innovative methods including collaborative design and mobile neuro-imaging. The locality has undergone huge transformation in recent years, most notably with the construction of the Olympic Park.

Another part of the wider Mobility, Mood and Place project will involve mapping ‘environmental histories’ of a group of older people from Scotland, to understand how the environments they have lived in throughout their lives influence their health and mobility in old age.

Mobility, Mood and Place is a joint project that brings together experts from the Universities of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, York (including SEI) and King’s College London.

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