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Category: Events

Reflections on our BSG co-design workshop

In July 2016, we were delighted to participate in the 45th Annual Conference of the British Society of Gerontology (BSG). In this guest blog post, Dr Marianne Markowski of the University of Greenwich reflects on the experience of being involved in our co-design workshop, which took place on the final morning of the conference…

My background is in user experience and interaction design and through my PhD research I’m very interested in co-design processes. I was extremely pleased that the BSG offered this year such a hands-on workshop, where the 40-minute task was to design a domestic walled garden environment for an older couple with early onset dementia.

Starting out

On arrival, the delegates were placed into three groups. My group included Mary Marshall (a Senior Consultant for Hammond Care and former Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling), Alice Mears (a recent graduate from the Architecture programme at Edinburgh College of Art) and CJ Dunwoody (a Landscape Architecture graduate).

We were given a cork-board model to shape into a domestic walled garden environment for an older couple with early onset dementia. The basic model was laid out with different ground levels and a river, and we were given a house and a small summer house to place, and plenty of materials (such as tissue paper, cardboard, sticks, string, glue, and scissors) to make things to add to our environment, such as trees, paths and other constructions.

Materials for a design exercise

The basic model, with ground levels, a river and a few trees

Before we started, Iain Scott (who leads the MMP co-design studio) pointed out issues that we might address, such as the path of the sun and the activities the couple might enjoy. He also emphasised that discussions in our group were as important as the outcomes. We were asked to keep a list of six items to explain our design decisions.

Creating the story

In our group we started with the key question of which way the sun was moving. We agreed pretty quickly that the bedrooms were facing east (nice and bright in the morning), the kitchen south, and the living room was west-facing.

Naturally, we also built a story around our older couple. We gave them names – Bertie and Patricia – and a reason for moving to this property (they wanted a house near the seaside).

We imagined the sea to be to the west and therefore placed the house accordingly so the living room had the sea view.

A group working on a design exercise

Getting going on the design

Addressing the river

The next question we discussed was whether we need worry about the river, considering our couple had early onset dementia. I was assured by more experienced group members that early onset dementia did not increase the risk of someone falling into the water, so we didn’t worry further about securing the river banks.

We did, however, agree that it would be nice to have both the main house and summer house on the same side of the river. The area on the other side became the grandchildren’s play area and a place for extended walks.

For the play area, we created a teepee and a swing. I suggested what is known in Germany as a Hollywood swing, which is a double-seater swing and which moves very gently.

Model of a garden with a river

The play area, with teepee and swing, is to the right of the river

Parking and gardening

It took us a while to agree on the street and parking. We obviously didn’t want to have a bedroom window with a view onto a parking space, nor did we want the street to come directly towards the house, ruining the view from the living room.

In the end we decided to have the street running from the east, separated with a green hedge, going alongside the house (north) where there was a larger parking area and a garage.

We saw Bertie and Patricia as two people who loved gardening. So we made them a greenhouse, especially considering Bertie’s passion for tomatoes. Bertie was also into making things, hence he got a shed, which we placed near the parking area.

Patricia liked her flowers, and we located most of the flower beds near the bedroom window to ensure a nice view. We then added a conservatory opening onto a patio from the south-facing kitchen.

Towards the sea, we placed a BBQ area with large wooden benches. The summer house was not too far from the trees nearest to the sea, where we (I) also made a hammock to relax for the grandchildren / children.

Patricia and Bertie could go on walks leaving their patio to go to their summer house, or continue over the bridge to the other side of the river. There was a second bridge going over the river which was near the water wildlife area and with a path going back to the patio.

There was a ‘desire line’ (a term that I newly learnt) from the path directly to the summer house. Along the paths we had plenty of benches for seating.

Model of a garden

The finished design

Ideas I had which didn’t make it into the final design were a bandstand and an amphitheatre, things which might have worked well if Bertie and Patricia had a passion for music or theatre.

Team working

Overall, the atmosphere in our group was very friendly, fun and productive. We seemed to fall naturally into our roles.

Mary made notes of design decisions. Alice drew on paper or made constructs while guiding our conversations. CJ made trees and benches, drew paths and also guided our conversations, while I cut roads, made flower beds and a hammock.

It was interesting for me to learn how to use the materials to make the models. For example, how I had to split the string to make it more suitable for the hammock modelling.

Photo of two workshop participants

Mary (left) and CJ (right) enjoying the workshop

Group discussion

It was very exciting to see what the other groups had done with the same basic model, materials and brief.

The first group had placed the house in the same position, but flipped the other way (i.e. the bedroom on the opposite site). In their group, the couple with dementia were anxious about the water, so this group of designers made sure the residents would not need to go near it.

With their garden design, they offered raised flower beds, which I thought was a very neat idea. They considered the daily routines of their couple and parking for family or health professionals.

Model of a garden

Group One’s model, with raised flower beds and dense planting along the river

The third group decided to introduce public paths to the other side of the river. They discussed in detail how to make the river bank accessible, the design of the bridge and which colour to make the path to ensure good visibility.

They placed the summer house and main house in a way that a person with dementia could always gain orientation when they looked at them.

Model of a garden

Group Three’s model, with coloured paving

I thoroughly enjoyed this group work exercise. Not only did I learn about design principles to be considered for people with dementia, but also how useful it is to compartmentalise areas and to give them functions that add orientation and structure to a person’s everyday life (e.g. in the evening, I water the tomatoes in the greenhouse).

Photo of a group discussion

The wider group discussing our proposal

It’s further beneficial to consider the larger environment, such as wildlife, animals and plants. Last, but not least, I learnt tricks on how to use designers’ materials such as:

– how to make trees and stick them into the board (you need really sharp scissors!)
– what you can do with match sticks
– how to work with string (separating the strands can be useful)
– crunching up paper to make flowers, bushes and scrubs
– how to make paths using cut outs, string, or simply by drawing them on.

Thank you Mobility, Mood and Place team!

We will be running another co-design workshop on the final day of our forthcoming conference, ‘Habitats for Happy and Healthy Ageing’. This time, we’ll be basing the exercise on real sites in Edinburgh’s Old Town, which we’ll be visiting in the morning before our design and discussion activities in the afternoon.

Find out more about Habitats for Happy and Healthy Ageing (Edinburgh, 11-14 October 2016)

Age-friendly Orkney podcast

During a remarkably good spell of weather in what’s been a stormy winter overall, we visited the Northern Scottish islands of Orkney last month to hold two days of co-design activities. OK, so we had to wrap up warm, but at least it was sunny!

Photo of a site visit on Orkney


Over 30 people participated in our activities, including postgraduate Architecture students from Edinburgh College of Art, and local older people. There was plenty to keep us busy, including a hands-on, five-hour design workshop, site visits, and a two-hour coffee morning.

Photo of participants at a workshop











In advance of our visit, our Co-Investigator, Iain Scott, was interviewed on BBC Radio Orkney and, towards the end of our stay, researchers Dr Katherine Brookfield and Dr Sara Tilley recorded a fifteen minute podcast on what makes a place age-friendly. It’s a lovely listen, so give it a go.

> Listen to Katherine and Sara speaking to Orkney Podcasts

Age friendly Orkney – take part!

Mobility, Mood and Place is coming to the Scottish islands of Orkney… and we’d love to meet Orcadians aged 65 or over.

Researchers and designers want your views on how we can design environments that are enjoyable to be in, and easy to move around in, as we get older.

We have two events planned:

  • a design workshop on Monday 18th January 2016 (10.30am – 3.30pm)
    where we’ll develop designs for an age-friendly Orkney through fun and creative activities
  • a coffee morning on Wednesday 20th January 2016 (10.00am – 12.00pm)
    where we’ll look at original designs for age-friendly environments over coffee and cake

You are welcome to join us at one or both of these events, which take place at
Kirkwall & St Ola Community Centre & Town Hall on Broad Street, Kirkwall, KW15 1DH

Poster for events in Orkney

For further information, or to book your place, please contact:

Dr Katherine Brookfield
0131 651 5829

Social Capital and Population Health – watch Ichiro Kawachi’s lecture online

In February 2015, we hosted Harvard University’s Professor Ichiro Kawachi for a two-day visit to Edinburgh.

Professor Kawachi is an expert on social capital and health and, during his time with us, he gave a free public lecture to 200 people at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

Kawachi thinks of ‘social capital’ in terms of the resources you derive from being a member of one or more social networks, like a circle of friends, club or close-knit community.

In his one-hour lecture, which you can watch in full online, he focuses on the importance of these resources to the health, wellbeing and resilience of older people in particular, including after natural disasters such as the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Ichiro Kawachi screengrab

ECA Degree Show 2015

This year, 21 postgraduate students at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) have been working as part of the MMP team to co-create age-friendly designs for Hackney Wick in East London.

21 students have participated: 14 from the Architecture (MArch) programme; and seven from the Landscape Architecture (MLA) programme.

IMG_6218 960 x 610

MMP students talking to audience members at our Habitats for Happy Ageing event in March 2015. Image courtesy of Ben Shmulevitch.

Following two days of site visits and interactive activities with local older people in Hackney, and a public exhibition in February 2015,  the work they have created forms a rich visual overview of plans for an age-friendly Hackney Wick, with drawings, models, plans, videos and much more.

We would love you to come along to the annual ECA Degree Show at Edinburgh College of Art, where you can see a large selection of the work in a beautiful space overlooking Edinburgh Castle. The show runs from Saturday 30th May 2015 to Sunday 7th June 2015. Entry is FREE.


Architectural models and drawings

Architectural models and drawings by Paula Madden, Emily Nason and Chloe Hand. Image by Three Point Photography

Showing the Way: take part in a workshop on signage for people with dementia

Showing the Way is a new research project led jointly by the School of Health in Social Science at the University of Edinburgh and Hammond Care Australia. 

The project seeks to develop fresh approaches to signage in dementia environments that help people with dementia find their way around.

 The project team would like to hear from you and there are a number of ways to get involved:

 (1) By participating in the Showing the Way workshops, the first of which is being held on Thursday 23rd April 2015 (12pm to 3pm) in Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh, EH8 8AQ. An equivalent event will be taking place in Australia, where project partner, Hammond Care, is based.

(2) By taking part in the Showing the Way Delphi panel in May, June and July 2015. Participation in the panel is remote. You do not need to come to Edinburgh to contribute.

Find out more



Age-Friendly Hackney Wick

Hackney Wick is changing… but is it age-friendly? Come along to our exhibition of postgraduate design work on age-friendly environments for Hackney at the White Building, White Post Lane, Hackney, E9 5EN on Monday 16th February 2015.

Linked to our Co-created environments topic, the exhibition will feature work by postgraduate architecture and landscape architecture students at the University of Edinburgh. The designs have been produced over the past four months, following two days of site visits and interactive activities with older people in Hackney in October 2014.

Doors open at 11am and close at 4pm. Light refreshments will be provided and the students will be there to talk about their work and answer questions.

The exterior of The White Building

The White Building
Hackney E9 5EN Image courtesy of The White Building

Remember remember… lots on in November

EPH_logoThe 7th European Public Health Conference takes place in Glasgow this year, and MMP will be there.

On Thursday 20th November 2014, Professor Catharine Ward Thompson (MMP Principal Investigator) will chair a workshop at the conference, which this year has as its theme ‘Mind the gap: Reducing inequalities in health and health care’.

Co-organised by the EUPHA Section on Public Mental Health and the University of Edinburgh, the workshop will feature presentations by Catharine and six other researchers, including MMP team members…

Professor Jamie Pearce speaking about:
Opportunities and challenges in researching the longitudinal effects of green environments throughout the life course.

… and …

Dr Jenny Roe and Dr Chris Neale speaking about:
Using mobile EEG (electroencephalography) to explore the relationship between environmental affect (i.e. mood of a place) and mobility whilst walking through different urban settings with and without green space, in a range of participants, including older people, aged 65+

The workshop will be co-chaired by Jutta Lindert, Professor of Public Health at the Protestant University of Ludwigsburg, Germany.

The 7th European Public Health Conference conference runs from 19th – 22nd November 2014 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow. It is hosted by the European Public Health Conference Foundation, the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) and the UK Society for Social Medicine. For full programme information, and to register, visit




Convened by Níall McLaughlin, of UCL and Níall McLaughlin Architects, the RIBA’s 9th annual Research Symposium is dedicated to how architects can benefit from designing for older people.

A key feature of the Symposium, which takes place on Tuesday 18th November 2014 at the RIBA in London, will be an exploration of age-friendly placemaking through a series of case studies.

The case studies will offer an original insight into six inspiring projects from around the UK, based on a series of visits with the architects and a variety of academic reviewers.

Professor Catharine Ward Thompson (MMP) will be co-presenting with Liza Fior of muf architecture/art on muf’s public realm improvements to Barking Town Square.

The 9th annual RIBA Research Symposium is on Tuesday 18th November 2014 at the headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on Portland Place in London. For full programme information, and to register, visit the RIBA website

What’s your brain doing in this place?

Join MMP researchers, Dr Jenny Roe and Dr Chris Neale, for a demonstration of the headset we’re using in Topic 2 (Environment and affect) that measures brain activity on the move.

As part of YorNight, the University of York’s Europeans’ Researchers Night, Jenny and Chris will also be discussing how we are using this EEG technology to understand how older people navigate the city, the stress points they encounter and the places that they find most enjoyable and relaxing. 

The event is FREE and will give you the chance to hear about a number of other health-related research projects from across eight different departments at the University of York.

Hosted by York Medical Society, the session will start at 17.00; Jenny and Chris are on from 17.20-17.35.

More information

Pilot EEG study in The Meadows

Is sitting so bad for older people? Take part in a FREE webinar

70% of older adults sit for more than 8.5 hours daily. Is this so bad? Find out in a FREE webinar, co-presented by Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP) team member, Professor Gillian Mead.

Get up and Go: Is sitting so bad for older people? will explore how prolonged sedentary behaviour poses an important health risk across the life course (a bigger waist, depression and social isolation, even an increased risk of death). Aimed at practitioners who work with older people, it will be a platform to share tips and ideas on ways to break up long periods of sitting and motivating ourselves, and others, to do so.

To participate, sign-up, for free, online

Gillian Mead is Professor of Stroke and Elderly Care Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, a Senior Lecturer in Geriatric Medicine and Honorary Consultant Geriatrician in NHS Lothian. She leads the NIHR Age and Ageing Speciality Group in Scotland, which brings together clinicians and researchers and currently has over 300 members.

Together with MMP colleagues, Professors Ian Deary and John Starr, and 15 other experts from Glasgow Caledonian, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and Salford Universities, Gillian is involved with the Seniors USP project on Understanding Sedentary Patterns. Led by Professor Dawn Skelton, this collaborative project aims to inform future interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity in older people.

Find out more about Seniors USP.

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