Older folk having a laugh


Prof Vicki Hanson

University of Dundee

October 2013 to March 2017

AIM: A fundamental impact of ageing is that a person’s needs and abilities change; however, the built environment is failing to respond to these physical and cognitive changes. Despite current legislative statutes and design guidance little is known from empirical evidence (generated by older people, their families, care providers and architects) about enabling (and disabling) elements of the built environment. Therefore, we started with the overarching question:

How can the built environment facilitate physical ability and wellbeing in care homes?


We carried out research in care homes to help tackle a key challenge facing care designers and providers: Understanding how to create environments which support older adults in maintaining their quality of life long after transitioning to a care home environment. We worked across different areas: giving a voice to the users of these environments, measuring physical activity in relation to health, and tracing and modelling movement within the homes to generate new research knowledge.

Main project outcomes

Activities in BESiDE have generated findings across all the areas of the research and publications are still in process in many areas of this work.

  • How to design and build automated, cloud-based analysis and visualisation for activity and location data
  • Interviews with care home users (residents, staff, and visitors) have captured the priorities as seen from the eyes of visitors and residents.
  • Observational studies uncovered information about the spatial demands imposed by the everyday life of a care home. This work identified built environment design qualities which support opportunities for wellbeing among care home residents.
  • Interviews and questionnaires with built-environment professionals have contributed a review of knowledge exchange methods within the context of built-environment design for older adults.
  • Software development to facilitate architects’ conversations with clients regarding built-environment needs for facilitating health and wellbeing in a care home has so far resulted in prototype software. This software is awaiting usability tests to be tested by architects.
  • Designers working with Co-design methods have developed a methodology to enable people (designers, engineers, technologists or clinicians) to engage empathetically with care home residents in personalising off-the shelf wearables or monitoring devices (for research) that are appropriate for them
  • An accelerometery based study across a cohort of care homes has established a baseline of physical activity levels amongst this population. It has determined differences with analogous community dwelling populations, further highlighting the need for novel approaches to increasing activity participation in care home populations.
  • The testing of location sensing technologies has been extensive and has informed research on activity traces of care home residents.