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UCLan leads international study into finding better ways of addressing the housing needs of older people

13 February 2015

Lyndsey Boardman

European and Chinese study aims to identify effective approaches for older people and communities

Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will lead an international project to find new ways of helping older people remain in their own homes using smart technology to aid independence, care delivery and better connect them to their communities.

The three-year €1 million venture will work with people who are over the traditional retirement age of 65, with a particular focus on the over 80s, to find new and innovative ways of adapting a person’s home so that they can live independently for longer and avoid going into residential care as well as making it easier for them to access public services such as health and social services.

The UCLan research team from the Grenfell-Baines School of Architecture, Construction and Environment and the Centre for Citizenship and Community in the School of Social Work, will explore the relationships between a person’s living environment and the design of care delivery. This will involve working with older volunteers to, for example, explore smart technology such as sophisticated alarm systems that can monitor the opening and closing of doors, fall sensors, specialist lighting and talking devices to aid visual impairment, gadgets that monitor health information and even direct video links to a resident’s GP.

This aspect of the study will be supported by an assessment of the value and potential of relevant social support and relationship networks to older people, such as family and friends and informal social groups that bring people together. For this, the study will look at a number of local settings within each country and taking account of cultural values, consider the part that these networks can play in the design of care and accommodation delivery.

 

“This project is focused on meeting older people’s needs in terms of long-term care by exploring the relationships between the living environments of older people and the design of care delivery”

ODESSA (Optimising care delivery models to support ageing-in-place: towards autonomy, affordability and financial sustainability) is a collaborative venture between UCLan, Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, Université Paris Dauphine and Université Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique /Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne from Paris, France, with UCLan being allocated €600,000 of the overall funding.

A key focus is how China, which traditionally cares for its older population through extended family support, and the existing European care system can learn from each other while also acknowledging that both systems need to prepare for the challenges of an ageing population. By 2035 it is projected that those aged 65 and over in China, the UK and France will account for 20%, 23% and 24% of the total populations respectively, and the number of people aged 85 and over in the UK will be 1.6 times larger than in 2010, accounting for 3.6% of the total UK population.*

UCLan architect Professor Karim Hadjri is leading the project in the UK. He said: “This is a great opportunity for UCLan to lead on ageing research in collaboration with world class universities in France and China.

“This project is focused on meeting older people’s needs in terms of long-term care by exploring the relationships between the living environments of older people and the design of care delivery from technological, financial, political and social consideration. These are key aspects that will inform housing choices for older people and drive future care delivery policy and practice.” 

“A whole system change is needed to address the public health impact of ageing populations.”

“A whole system change is needed to address the public health impact of ageing populations. Targeted investment in housing adaptation to improve accessibility and in specialised and or supported housing for older people can lead to substantial and cost effectiveness improvements in the health, wellbeing and inclusion of older citizens.”

The ODESSA project will run for three years and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The findings will identify common features for integrated care under different policy and social circumstances and provide comparative studies that will inform recommendations to benefit China and Europe. The grant was awarded under the Europe - China call for collaborative research on The Green Economy and Understanding Population Change.

The UCLan research team comprises Professor Hadjri and Professor Akintola Akintoye from the Grenfell-Baines School of Architecture, Construction and Environment, and Professor David Morris, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), and Jez Buffin from the Centre for Citizenship and Community in School of Social Work. The Centre for Citizenship and Community is a partnership between UCLan and the RSA.