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The number of people worldwide living with dementia and cognitive impairment is increasing, mainly due to people living longer, so, by implementing the SPACE project we want to figure out how where we live affects dementia and brain health as we get older. Some research suggests that where we live might influence our brain health. As more of us now live in towns and cities, it is important that the environment where we live (regardless of geographic location or socio-economic status) is designed to maximise our brain health.

  • Why is this project important?

    We do not know what factors make environments a problem for brain health. Nor do we know which are the best policies, practices or interventions for promoting healthy ageing and brain health particularly for our poorest communities. Therefore, the SPACE project aims to provide evidence to inform policies and interventions that will provide supportive urban environments to promote healthy ageing, including promoting brain health. This could include using creative urban designs to support people to adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles such as being more active. 

  • What will we do?

    The SPACE Project has the following steps: 

    1. Involve older adults and a range of stakeholders (e.g., individuals from business, industry, and local government) from the outset and throughout.

    2. Review existing research, to understand the relationships between our biology, our lifestyles and our environment.

    3. Analyse data from over 8,000 older people in Northern Ireland, to explore how different environmental factors relate to brain health.

    4. Collect new data from 1,000 older people (i.e., measures of brain health and physical activity, and monitor the locations they visit in their environment) to explore how the environment influences our brain health.

    5. Explore how our biology plays a role in how the urban environment affects our brain health.

    6. Host workshops with local citizens to 'sense-check' our findings and co-develop promising prevention approaches (e.g., expanding the car-free areas of the city to reduce air pollution; increasing the number of footpaths and cycle paths to encourage walking and cycling).

  • How will we tell you about it?

    Communications and Engagement  

    Our communication strategy has two elements:

    1) engaging with beneficiaries; and

    2) sharing our outputs and impacts.

    As a research team we will devise a plan that will effectively disseminate and communicate our findings to a range of local, national and international audiences.  

    Specific methods through which we will disseminate and communicate our research includes: a project website; Twitter; peer-reviewed journal papers; presentations at national and international conferences; policy briefing papers; newsletters; summaries; and case study stories.  

    We will also be creating a Cognitive Health/Urban Vision online Geographic Information System (GIS) dashboard, co-developed in WP2. This dashboard will draw together the research findings, and policy development and implementation guidance in a way that will be accessible to business, industry, policymakers and other multi-sectoral stakeholders. The interactive online GIS Dashboard will enable research outputs to be visualised in an intuitive way for efficient decision making.  

  • What do we want to acheive?


    The overall impact of the SPACE project is that it will provide a deeper understanding of how urban design and effective urban planning can prevent cognitive health decline.  

    The key strength of SPACE is its on-going commitment to engaging with a variety of relevant stakeholders throughout the project. This includes the use of ‘Impact Advisory Panels’, to ensure that research findings are disseminated in such a way that they generate the highest impact.   

    Relevant stakeholders include: older people, the general public; public health practitioners; urban designers and planners, architects, landscape architects; business and industry; and policymakers across the UK. 

    We anticipate that the findings from this project will lead to the development of programmes and policies that enhance the urban environment for cognitive health and reduce cognitive health risk factors, leading to better quality of life and life expectancy.  

    We will also be bringing stakeholders together in a ‘Pathway to the Future Plenary Workshop’ in Belfast to build consensus and consider how changes might be realised within complex urban systems. 

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