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Headsets could help elderly mobility in cities

15th October 2014

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Custom-built headsets could help researchers locate so-called positive and negative ‘hot spots’ for elderly mobility and their emotional state. Edinburgh University has been recording the emotional response of pensioners in urban areas to monitor its effect on their emotional and physical health, where it is hoped that by the end of the project they will be able to make recommendations to urban planners to reduce stress caused by inaccessible areas.

A number of elderly people were asked to walk around Hackney Wick whilst wearing a special headset called an electroencephalogram, which monitors the brain activity. Previous experiments have also taken place in both East London and Leith in Scotland, in order to determine what makes older people feel uncomfortable in urban areas. While many are able to feel comfortable in their own homes thanks to such additions as motorised stair lifts and supportive recliner chairs, the outside world can provide problems for those with mobility needs, which this study is hoping to overcome.

Improving urban environments

Professor Catherine Ward Thomson, Director of OPENspace at the University of Edinburgh, stated that well-designed places with good ambience are more likely to engage us, affecting our judgements and actions in a positive manner. When being able to relax in a natural environment people are more likely to remain alert and active in busy places, highlighting the need for the environments of the elderly to be made more comfortable.

The results of the research will be compared with those gathered from a previous study which examined the reactions of students. This will then allow researchers to see whether the elderly find certain aspects of city life, such as crossing the road, more stressful than the younger generation. The results from the study will then be passed on to urban developers in order for these issues to be prevented in the future, in the hope that the stress that the elderly may encounter is such situations could be reduced.

Image Credit: Oleg Golovnev (Shutterstock)

This content was written by Emily Bray. Please feel free to visit my Google + profile to read more stories.