Older lady in wheelchair enjoying a garden


Dr Mark Bevan

University of York

August 2013 to January 2017

AIM: Working with older people, this project aimed to explore a range of options and tools that may be able to meet contrasting needs, support mobility and wellbeing, and do so more quickly and affordably than adapting the built environment.


The specific objectives of the project were to:

  • Explore mobility and wellbeing for older people going through critical but
    common life transitions;
  • Investigate and address variation and contradictions in the needs of different
    groups of older people (and even for single individuals over time), and between
    different built environment agendas; and
  • To co-create practical tools that can act as complements or alternatives to the
    redesign of the built environment.

Main project outcomes

A pilot study with mobility scooter users identified a number of key areas of future research into improvements to urban planning, as well as mobility scooter design, which could provide solutions for improved wellbeing and mobility for scooter users.

Technologies such as smartphones and tablet computers can help older people to take part in physical activities and maintain their wellbeing. We drew upon a co-design process with older people to develop a prototype app for smartphone that would promote mobility and wellbeing.

A participatory mapping approach was used to identify both positive and negative aspects of the environment that influence mobility for older people, and to engage with the wider public to identify opinions and views on key potential changes to the design or regulation of the built environment. This approach offers potential alternative mechanisms for taking forwards public engagement in the identification of priority setting in local areas with regard to resource allocation.

The research highlighted the impact of recent key changes in participants’ lives on mobility, such as giving up driving, starting to live alone, or living with a physical impairment or sensory loss. Participants emphasised how mobility was enabled or constrained not only in relation to the physical design of the built environment, but also the impact of the attitudes and behaviours of service providers and the wider public. This latter finding reinforces messages from other studies, and points towards the need for greater policy attention on awareness raising techniques.

One theme running through many participants’ discussions was journeys that are about care and support. This finding poses questions about how far ‘care on the move’, is reflected in transport planning as well the extent to which the wider built environment, particularly transport hubs, are sufficiently recognised as places where care and support takes place.