The contribution of building research to the independence and quality of life of older people
Lansley, P. and Smith, V. (2004) The contribution of building research to the independence and quality of life of older people. In: Responding to Change, Cobra 2004, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds.
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Many nations are experiencing rapid rises in the life expectancy of their citizens. The implications of this major demographic shift are considerable offering opportunities as well as challenges to reconsider how people should spend their later years. A key task is enhancing the quality of life of older people through enabling them to continue to live independently even though illness, accident or frailty may have severely reduced their physical and sensory abilities and, possibly, mental health. Yet the needs of older people and disabled people have been largely ignored in the design of everyday consumer products, the home, transport systems and the built environment in general. Whilst the need for designers, engineers and technologists to provide products, environments and systems which are inclusive of all members of society is widely accepted, there is little understanding of how this can be achieved. In 1998 the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council established its EQUAL Initiative. This has encouraged design, engineering and technology researchers in universities to join with their colleagues from the social, medical and health sciences to investigate a wide range of issues experienced by older and disabled people and to propose solutions. Their research, which directly involves older and disabled people and, for example, social housing providers, social services departments, charities, engineering and architectural consultants, and transport firms, has been extremely successful. In a very short time it has influenced government policy on housing, long-term care, and building standards, and findings have been taken up by architects, designers, health-care professionals and bodies which represent older and disabled people.