Jan. 4, 2017

Swansea University researchers develop tool to help older people in their communities

Researchers at Swansea University have created a new survey tool to help older people to rate their community. This simple tool could be used to plan age-friendly residential neighbourhoods, which in turn can have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing.

The Older Peoples External Residential Assessment Tool (OPERAT) has been created by Professor Vanessa Burholt, Dr Charles Musselwhite and Dr Matthew Roberts from the Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University as part of a research project funded by Health and Care Research Wales and published in Biomed Central. The research team has developed OPERAT to help plan for age-friendly and dementia supportive communities due to issues that may arise from the ageing UK population.

Dr Charles Musselwhite explains, “People living in attractive environments can experience psychological wellbeing due to decreased tension, anger and depression whereas in areas where there is litter, graffiti, crime or fear of crime, people can experience stress and are at risk of reduced physical activity and social isolation which in turn is linked to poor health. Previous research has also shown that most older people want to ‘age in place’, and so establishing positive living environments are vitally important for the welfare of older people.” 

The OPERAT tool assesses how much people enjoy living in their neighbourhood and whether they felt that it was a desirable place to live and if they felt safe either in the day or night, to help local authorities to plan such environments in the future.  It encourages participants to assess their neighbourhood under four main themes: Natural elements; Incivilities and nuisance; Navigation and mobility; and Territorial functioning.

Professor Burholt says, “We feel that the OPERAT tool can make a positive contribution to planning our communities in the future. We live in a society that is ageing and this has resulted in specific housing and community needs. As external environment influences health and wellbeing, having good quality living environments that benefit those who live in them it is so very important and there is a need for public policies to respond to this in order to support community living by developing age friendly and dementia supportive communities.”

Find out more about the Centre of Innovative Ageing at Swansea University.

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Content added on 4th January 2017. 

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