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By DSDC Team

March 10th, 2021

Designing Homes for Healthy Cognitive Ageing (DesHCA): the project

We are delighted to announce that University of Stirling experts are leading a major new research project.

DesHCA is funded by the UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund under the Healthy Ageing Challenge Social, Behavioural and Design Research Programme. It is a multi-disciplinary project involving a team of researchers, older people and partners in industry, local government and the voluntary sector. The aim of the project is to identify scalable and sustainable design improvements to homes which provide support for healthy cognitive ageing, enabling us, as we age, to continue living in our preferred environments as we experience cognitive change.

As we age, many of us will experience cognitive changes, and for some of us, these will develop into dementia. We know that people's homes can make the experience of cognitive changes more difficult, or can enable continuing inclusion and sense of self-worth and self-esteem. DesHCA will work with people experiencing ageing and cognitive change and those who design and develop housing. We will identify housing innovations that can support living better for longer with cognitive change. Our emphasis on healthy cognitive ageing goes beyond narrow conceptions of 'dementia-friendly design' into a more expansive and inclusive approach to housing innovation.

The multidisciplinary DesHCA team involves stakeholders from all areas of housing provision, including people experiencing ageing and cognitive change, architects and designers, housing experts, planners, builders and housing providers. Older people are integral to DesHCA and their health is at its heart. The project will design and build virtual and real living spaces that will act as demonstrators and test-beds for innovations to support healthy cognitive ageing. These designs will be evaluated from stakeholder points of view, then considered at a larger scale to examine their real-world feasibility.

DesHCA has a unique opportunity to feed directly into the UK and Scottish Government City Region Deal for Central Scotland (Stirling and Clackmannanshire), providing groundwork for local housing developments. The focus of this is sustainable, lifetime health, community and economic development, addressing deprivation and inequality.

To achieve these aims, DesHCA takes a co-production approach, with the whole team working to identify innovations that engage with real-world experiences and aspirations. We will use exciting and involving ways to collect data which will be used to inform the design of the demonstrator houses. These designs will evolve as stakeholders interact with them and provide feedback from their different points of view. To collect data, we will ask older people to map and evaluate their own homes and to experience and comment on new design features using virtual reality (VR). They will then collaborate with builders, architects and housing providers in VR workshops to identify practical, realistic and affordable designs that can support healthy cognitive ageing, and therefore longer healthy, independent life. Partners will then come together in interactive workshops to convert designs into plans within a fictional town, building and retrofitting homes, creating services and managing budgets. We will demonstrate how designs can work out in the real world, and how to bring together the various interests involved. Throughout, we will consider issues of costs, to inform business planning and help make decisions on implementation of the new designs.

The impact of DesHCA will be achieved through showing what works in housing design for healthy cognitive ageing. Immediately, DesHCA will feed into the City Region Deal and longer term we will provide tools for future developers to inform their decisions about housing for healthy cognitive ageing. Throughout the project, we will disseminate findings to the housing, architecture and building sectors through stakeholder networks. We will publish rigorous research findings to provide a peer reviewed, high quality research base for innovation. Thus we will go beyond recommendations and guidance to provide evidence to support delivery at scale, grounded in the co-production approach that draws on the real experience, interests and imperatives that drive different stakeholders.

DesHCA's multidisciplinary team will build capacity among early career researchers in research leadership, working across disciplines such as architecture and planning, economics, sociology and across sectors with a range of different industrial and professional stakeholders, such as housing workers, planners and construction companies.

 

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