Active Ageing and the Built Environment


Demographic ageing is one of the EU’s “grand societal challenges” to be addressed by science, technology and innovation, and designing age-friendly environments on building, community and regional levels is pivotal in tackling this challenge. The construction sector and construction innovation, in particular, play central roles in the design, implementation and scaling of age-friendly environments. The ECTP’s focus area on “Active Ageing and the Built Environment” (AABE) has taken up this challenge by defining a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for the construction sector about innovation processes for the design of integrated and ICT-driven age-friendly environments.

Connected homes, communities and cities are an essential ingredient on the path towards more age-friendly environments. Such environments make use of new technology and smart urban design and architecture to support and foster independent living and active ageing, and to shift access to health and care services (where needed) from hospitals and institutional houses to private homes. However, the transition towards such age-friendly built environments requires innovation processes that cut across the expertise from construction, ICT, architecture, health care, the ageing disciplines, older persons and others. Currently, the activities of these sectors are fragmented and localized. The AABE focus area strives to connect the relevant actors from these sectors, and provide guidelines for innovation in construction that increase the healthy life span with 2-5 years. In particular, it addresses the following challenges:

  • Cross-sectoral innovation in construction for connected and smart environments to support active and healthy ageing: Designing age-friendly environments requires cross-sectoral collaborations between the construction sector, the health and ageing disciplines, and ICT, at the least; the AABE focus area will map the relevant challenges and define research needs for cross-sectoral, project based innovation processes in construction for smart, connected and age-friendly environments.
  • User involvement and co-creation: age-friendly environments need to proceed on a holistic perspective on the quality of life in old age and how this is related to the built environment. The AABE focus area addresses the challenge of designing flexible solutions on building and community levels that are adaptable to a variety of (evolving) needs and explores different forms of user involvement and co-creation in construction innovation to address this challenge.
  • Evaluation of projects: There is a host of European projects and pilot sites of age-friendly environments, but relative little approaches exist to evaluate the usefulness of these insights for the construction sector. This creates a risk of double work, and expertise that remains local and dispersed. The AABE focus area will discuss smart ways to evaluate and connect insights from different projects and pilot sites, and establish a platform for knowledge exchange and dissemination that takes relevant knowledge to a next level.

Should you be interested in participating or want more information, please contact Alexander Peine from Utrecht University who is leading this Focus Area.