I was lucky enough to get a place at the massively over-subscribed New Dynamics of Ageing conference in London on 21st October 2013. This was the culmination of the biggest research project on ageing in Europe, ever.
So how does the £21 million, from five UK research councils, invested in 35 projects over eight years inform our cycle BOOM research project?
Firstly, there is a huge interest in and need for research on ageing. Not only were people fighting to attend but those who did were from a very wide range of research and other backgrounds. But Lord Filkin posed the question raised by the House of Lords select committee earlier this year: are the UK Government and its wider society ‘Ready for Ageing?’ The answer – a resounding ‘no’. So more research, such as how to promote active-ageing and how to combat loneliness is desperately needed. Cycling has a role to play here, though it barely featured in the conference.
Secondly, excellent research is not enough. It needs to have a real impact on the lives of people in later life. The New Dynamics of Ageing projects have done this in a wide range of ways which are relevant to cycling. There was everything from the design of outdoor-wear for older people using technical textiles and wearable electronics to better understanding how much time older people spend outdoors, how far they travel and how they use unfamiliar places.
In his concluding comments James Goodwin, Head of Research at Age UK and a supporter of cycle BOOM, reinforced the importance of user engagement and multi-disciplinary approaches in producing quality research that would have real impact. These are factors cycle BOOM is focussing keenly on.
My exploration of the marketplace of research project displays resulted in many potential links for cycle BOOM. I was pleased to find I’d also notched up nearly a thousand steps on the free pedometer we were given – but was put in my place by the 5000+ clocked up by one of the Older People’s Reference Group who clinched the prize for most active participant.
About the author:
Ben Spencer is a Research Assistant on the cycle BOOM research project at Oxford Brookes University. He is passionate about urban design, cycling and play.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org