PlaceAge research is currently being undertaken across two ESRC funded projects in the United Kingdom, Brazil and India exploring how older adults experiences ageing across different urban, social and cultural contexts. ‘Place-Making with Older People: Towards Age Friendly Communities’ is a £808,289 UK-Brazil Research Project funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-Newton Fund which commenced in May 2016 and was concluded in December 2019.  ‘Ageing Well in Urban Environments: Developing Age Friendly Cities and Communities’is an ESRC-ICSSR (Indian Council of Social Science Research) funded UK-Brazil-India research project which began in May 2018 and will be completed by January 2021 (£404,827). These projects are co-led by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, the Federal University of Pelotas, in Pelotas, Brazil and Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, India.

Ageing populations in the UK, Brazil and India have generated new challenges in how to best design urban environments that support and promote everyday social engagement and healthy urban living for older people. As they age older adults face declining physical and cognitive capacities, changes to their living arrangements and loss of social supports. In response to this, the ageing-in-place agenda has become an important issue in redefining policy for older people. The ageing-in-place agenda posits that the preferred environment for older adults to age is in the community, where they can remain active, engaged, socially connected, and independent. However, contemporary urban cities can be ‘unfriendly’ and ‘hostile’ to older adults, acting as a barrier to accessing social, economic and civic opportunities. These research projects recognize that simply changing the built form is not sufficient to create a more inclusive environment for ageing since places are more than physical spaces. Viable environments are articulated through a strong sense of place, defined as the social, psychological and emotional bonds that people have with their environment. A strong sense of place results from having access to supports for active participation, opportunities to build and sustain social networks, and assuming a meaningful role in the community. In contrast a feeling of displacement or ‘placelessness’ is associated with alienation, isolation and loneliness, often resulting in adverse health and well-being outcomes, particularly amongst vulnerable older adults. Societally, the creation of age friendly urban environments that support sense of place is integral to successful ageing ensuring that older adults can continue to make a positive contribution in old age, delaying the need for institutional care and reducing health and social care costs. Through developing a cross-cultural experiential understandings of ageing-in-the-right-place which take into account transformations in both, person and place, our research recognises the importance for developing age-friendly urban spaces that respond to different environmental, social and political frameworks.


Project: ‘Place-Making with Older People: Towards Age Friendly Communities’

Duration of the Research: May 2016 — December 2019. This research was awarded and is totally funded by ESRC (the Economic & Social Research Council) under its Urban Transformations in Brasil Research Programme. This was submitted to the ‘Healthy Urban Living and the Social Science of the Food-Water-Energy Nexus: UK-Brazil Calls for Collaborative Research’. Research-Project Fund Awarded: £808,289

Project: ‘Ageing Well in Urban Environments: Developing Age Friendly Cities and Communities’

Duration of the Research: May 2018 — January 2021. The UK-India research was awarded and is funded by ESRC (the Economic & Social Research Council) and ICSSR (Indian Council for Social Science Research) under its Urban Transformations Research Programme. Research-Project Fund Awarded: £404,827




Research Question we aim to answer:

(i) How is sense of place experienced by older adults from different social classes living in diverse neighbourhoods in the UK, Brazil and India?

(ii) What services, amenities and features are needed to create age friendly communities that promote healthy cities and active ageing in different urban and cultural contexts?

(iii) How can communities be designed to better integrate the sense of place needs of older adults across different urban and cultural contexts?

This research has three core aims:

(i) to investigate how sense of place is experienced by older people from different social settings living in diverse neighbourhoods in the UK, Brazil and India?;

(ii) to translate these experiences into designs for age friendly communities that support sense of place; and

(iii) to better articulate the role of older adults as active placemakers in the design process by involving the community at all stages of the research.


This research is undertaken a cross-national case study approach. Experiential research involving older adults and place have primarily been conducted as single-nation studies. Whilst these studies have made an important contribution to the research picture, there is a tendency to generalise outcomes and assume tools and resources are applicable across different national contexts. A comparative, multiple, cross-national case study approach is needed to understand the diversity of place-based experiences of older adults, and how this is influenced by neighbourhood, social contexts, welfare regimes and processes of urban governance and planning. This research selected three cities as case studies in Brazil (Brasilia, Pelotas, Belo Horizonte), three cities as case studies in the UK (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester) and three cities as case studies in India (Hyderabad, Calcutta and Delhi). The case study cities have been selected to represent a broad spectrum of urban areas, in terms of demography (mixed tenures by age), inequality (health and social disparities between high and low income groups), topography (different types of urban densities and form) and urban development (varying levels of physical transformation and change).


The PlaceAge research brings together older adults, policy makers and practitioners and academics between UK, Brazil and India to explore how support older adults to age across diverse urban, social and cultural contexts. The investigation comprises three linked Work Packages (WPs):

Work Package 1 – Capturing Sense of Place

Work Package 2 – Mapping Sense of Place

Work Package 3 – Designing for Sense of Place

The final full research reports of this Project will be available here in Portuguese and English by 2020.


Dr. Ryan Woolrych – Principal Investigator in the UK
Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh, UK
Dr. Adriana Portella – Principal Investigator in Brazil
Federal University of Pelotas
Pelotas, Brazil
Prof. V. Srikanth Reddy – Principal Investigator in India
Sri Venkateswara University
Tirupati, India
Dr. Jamuna Duvvuru – Principal Investigator in India
Sri Venkateswara University
Tirupati, India