In an increasingly older and urbanised world, identifying environmental factors that contribute to cognitive health in ageing is a current priority for research and policy. Using outdoor spaces benefits mental and physical health as we grow old; however, little is yet known on which specific environmental characteristics (e.g., presence of green, walkability, legibility) provide positive mental stimulation for an older person and help to contrast cognitive decline. This multi-disciplinary project defines and measures the subjective and objective characteristics of the outdoor lived environment that support cognitive well-being in older age.
A mixed-methods design is employed: Epidemiological investigations map places where older people are more or less cognitively healthy; walking interviews, focus groups and surveys capture older people’s experiences of environmental sources of support for cognition in their day-to-day interaction with outdoor spaces; environmental audits evaluate objective neighbourhood quality; experimental testing and neurophysiological assessments explore cognitive and brain responses to more or less supportive environments.
The project will advance the knowledge on ecological models of healthy cognitive ageing by linking quantitative and qualitative approaches. The findings will inform policy-makers and urban designers on optimisation strategies for outdoor spaces to help older people to age better.