University of Stirling begins major project to create future-proof housing for world’s ageing population

Professor Alison Bowes

EXPERTS at the University of Stirling are leading a major new research project to create future-proof housing to meet the needs of the world’s ageing population.

The designing homes for healthy cognitive ageing: co=production for impact and scale (DesHCA) project will bring together Scotland’s leading experts on dementia and dementia design, the building industry, architects, housing providers and communities.

The work, led by Professor Alison Bowes of the University of Stirling, will seek to identify housing innovations that can better support people living with cognitive conditions, such as dementia, for longer.

The project is being supported by £1.6 million in funding provided through the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI’s) health ageing challenge, part of the social, behavioural and design research programme.

Silviahemmet, a dementia charity established by the Queen of Sweden, will provide the initiative with their knowledge of developing SilviaBo – a specialist housing design for people living with dementia, created using IKEA’s modular housing BoKlok. Japenese charity, Mediva, is also supporting the work with their experience in developing housing for people who may develop dementia.

Professor Bowes, who is dean of Stirling’s faculty of social sciences, said, “We know that people’s homes can make the experience of cognitive changes more difficult, or can enable continuing inclusion and a sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

“This project brings together a multidisciplinary team involving stakeholders from all areas of housing provision, including people experiencing ageing and cognitive change, architects and designers, housing experts, planners, builders and housing providers, to identify housing innovations that can support living better for longer with cognitive change.”

The project will design and build virtual and real designs that will act as demonstrators and test-beds for innovations to support healthy cognitive ageing. These designs will be evaluated by stakeholders, including older people who will experience the new designs using virtual reality (VR), and be able to collaborate with builders, architects and housing providers to identify practical, realistic and affordable designs that can support healthy cognitive ageing, and therefore a longer healthy, independent life.

Dr Bowes added, “DesHCA’s aim is to identify scalable and sustainable design improvements to homes which provide support for healthy cognitive ageing, enabling people, as they age, to continue living in their preferred environments as they experience cognitive change. This change may include significant cognitive impairment and diagnosis of dementia.

“In the longer term, the project will guide improvements to existing housing and provide tools for future developers to inform their decisions about housing, with a view to meeting the needs of the world’s ageing population.”

The researchers also have a unique opportunity to feed directly into the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, providing groundwork for local housing developments.