SPACE: Supportive environments for Physical and social Activity, healthy ageing and CognitivE health

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Centre for Public Health

Abstract

The number of people worldwide living with dementia and cognitive impairment is increasing, mainly due to people living longer, so 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. For example, poor air quality in towns and cities, can lead to a decline in brain health. As more of us now live in towns and cities, it is important that the environment where we live is scientifically designed and improved to maximise our brain health.

The complex social and physical environments where we live make some people more vulnerable than others to developing cognitive impairment. In other words, the factors that account for who is most likely to develop cognitive ill-health due to the environment has less to do with 'how' we live and more to do with 'where' we live. We do not know how these factors interact to make urban environments a problem for brain health, nor which are the best policies and interventions for promoting healthy ageing and brain health for our poorest communities.

Our project will provide evidence for policies and practices that 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. However, this needs a strong evidence base with expert community advocates who can articulate how supportive urban environments can improve brain health.

Our research has the following steps:
1. First, with the help of stakeholders, including those from business, industry, and local government, and a review of existing research, we will represent the relationships between our biology, our lifestyles and our environment in a diagram illustrating how they likely interact to affect brain health, because visual thinking can help stakeholders better identify possible intervention sweet-spots to improve brain health.
2. By analysing data from over 8,000 older people in Northern Ireland, and linking this to information about where they live, such as the amount of air pollution, the toxins in soil, or how walkable their neighbourhoods are, we will explore how different environmental factors relate to brain health.
3. Next, we will collect new data on a subgroup of 1,000 older people including more in-depth measures of brain health and better measures of physical activity, using GPS devices worn around the waist that monitor our locations. This will allow us to explore how the urban environment influences our brain health.
4. Then, we will explore how aspects of our biology play a role in how the urban environment affects our brain health.
5. We will host workshops with local citizens to 'sense-check' our findings and co-develop promising prevention approaches. In these, we will explore the acceptability, affordability, feasibility and sustainability of new initiatives to improve the environmental influences on brain health. This might include, for example, policies on: 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; improving public transport to reduce car use.

As a result of our research we will produce:
1. A map of the system in which our genes, lifestyle behaviours and urban environments interact to affect brain health, to help guide stakeholders towards policies and programmes that can improve brain health.
2. An evidence base exploring how where we live affects our brain health.
3. A suite of potential policies and interventions to improve brain health and promote healthy ageing 'tested' (in terms of acceptability and feasibility) with older people, business, industry, policymakers and other stakeholders.

Organisations

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description PhD studentship [CH]
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2021 
End 09/2024
 
Description PhD studentship [air quality]
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2022 
End 09/2025
 
Description PhD studentship [data science]
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2022 
End 09/2025
 
Description PhD studentship [epigenetics]
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2022 
End 09/2025
 
Description Eye health group, QUB 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department Centre for Public Health (CPH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Developed the idea to collect data on visual acuity to help interpret the physical activity data in the SPACE project.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners are experts in collecting data on visual acuity using Smartphones and apps.
Impact We have develop a SOP to collect data on visual acuity as part of the WP 3 data collection on SPACE.
Start Year 2021
 
Description NIH supplement - Gateway to Global Ageing Data 
Organisation University of Michigan
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Developing a NIH supplement grant that extends the work of SPACE to the US and India. Our team provides the expertise in the urban environment and dementia risk.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners lead the Gateway for Global Ageing Data, and provide access to the US and India data.
Impact We are in the process of drafting a NIH supplement grant. This is due to be submitted in May 2022.
Start Year 2021
 
Description NIH supplement - Gateway to Global Ageing Data 
Organisation University of Southern California
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Developing a NIH supplement grant that extends the work of SPACE to the US and India. Our team provides the expertise in the urban environment and dementia risk.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners lead the Gateway for Global Ageing Data, and provide access to the US and India data.
Impact We are in the process of drafting a NIH supplement grant. This is due to be submitted in May 2022.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Administrative Data Research Centre for Northern Ireland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Age UK
Department Age NI
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Alzheimer's Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Australian Catholic University
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Belfast City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Belfast Healthy Cities
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation EastSide Partnership
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Public Health Agency (PHA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE - healthy ageing partners 
Organisation Trinity College Dublin
Country Ireland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We led the development of the SPACE research grant.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important expertise on health, data and ageing.
Impact The successful application to the ESRC for research funding.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE partners - industry and business sector 
Organisation Thermo Fisher Scientific
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Our team led the development of the grant application and leading the research programme.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important pathways to impact policy and practice from our research findings.
Impact To date, our partners have taken part is a stakeholder survey and been involved in discussions re: research impact.
Start Year 2021
 
Description SPACE partners - industry and business sector 
Organisation Translink (Belfast)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our team led the development of the grant application and leading the research programme.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners provide important pathways to impact policy and practice from our research findings.
Impact To date, our partners have taken part is a stakeholder survey and been involved in discussions re: research impact.
Start Year 2021
 
Description University of Southern Denmark 
Organisation University of Southern Denmark
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our team led the development of the SPACE grant.
Collaborator Contribution Active collaborator assisting the SPACE team on WP3 (physical activity and GPS data collection). Prof Schipperijn is working with Ruth and Claire to determine the most appropriate methodological processes that will be implemented to collect physical activity and location data in the sample of older adults.
Impact We have determined the most appropriate methodological processes that will be implemented to collect physical activity and location data in the sample of older adults.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Washington University at St Louis 
Organisation Washington University in St Louis
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Led the development of the SPACE project.
Collaborator Contribution New machine learning methods for analysing exposure data for GPS and physical activity data using Python.
Impact Discussion re: new machine learning methods for analysing exposure data for GPS and physical activity data.
Start Year 2021
 
Description 'Creating societal change through inspiration, innovation and impact' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Event attended as part of longevity week.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description CLOSER magazine [May 2021] 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A magazine article about the SPACE project in CLOSER magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.closer.ac.uk/news-opinion/blog/memory-matters-in-nicola/
 
Description Digital Leaders Event [16 June 2021] 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited speaker across public sector, private sector, and academia, to present on each of the 4 grand challenges; opportunity to showcase SPACE
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Healthy Ageing Challenge COP - Datasets 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact RH was involved in the development of a Healthy Ageing Challenge Community of Practice on Datasets on 14th Dec 2021. She also provided a presentation outlining how the SPACE project links various data sources to explore the impact of the urban environment on cognitive health.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Older People's Reference Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Patients, carers and/or patient groups
Results and Impact We held a 3-day training workshop in partnership with Strictly Boardroom in Nov 2021, Dec 2021 and Jan 2022 with approximately 40 older people from across Northern Ireland so that they could gain skills in communication, confidence and public speaking in order to participate effectively in the SPACE Older People's Reference Panel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description SPACE CLD workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We held a 2-day workshop with a range of experts from various disciplines such as computer science, ageing, social epidemiology, geography, urban planning, molecular epidemiology, health and the environment, in partnership with the Innovation Lab, to develop a causal loop diagram exploring the plausible causal pathways between the urban environment and cognitive health.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Thematic Workshop: sustaining physical activity [8 June 2021] 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Met with other projects working on the Healthy Ageing Framework theme 'sustaining physical activity' at a Community of Practice workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description UKRI working on wearables seminar [30 Sept 2021] 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact CC attended a UKRI seminar on wearables in health research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021