With changes in population demographics resulting in a growing number of care homes, economic, health and ethical considerations demand that attention be directed to effective means of creating an enabling built environment to provide older adults with healthy and socially fulfilling lives. Our goal is to continue to contribute to the network of stakeholders involved in care environments, in which architects, professional bodies, academics, policy makers, charities, and care home providers are all motivated to pursue improvement in the built environment for older adults.

The BESiDE research project was funded from October 2013 until March 2017.  BESiDE was a multidisciplinary team working with a consortium of external Project Partners and Expert Advisors.

What we did

A fundamental impact of ageing is that a person’s needs and abilities change; however, the built environment is failing to respond to these physical and cognitive changes. Despite current legislative statutes and design guidance little is known from empirical evidence (generated by older people, their families, care providers and architects) about enabling (and disabling) elements of the built environment. Therefore, we started with the overarching question:

How can the built environment facilitate physical ability and wellbeing in care homes?

Designing the built environment to encourage mobility and socialisation was a key priority of the United Kingdom's Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Research programme who funded our work.  Economic, health, and ethical considerations all demand that the built environment be structured to support older adults in maintaining their quality of life long after transitioning to a care home environment.  Understanding how to create such environments remains a key challenge facing architects and designers.

The BESiDE team tackled these challenges head on through research and knowledge exchange activities.

Read more on our Research Areas.

Our Team

University of Dundee              Newcastle University

At the core of our team were Prof Vicki Hanson and Prof Chris Reed from the University of Dundee and Prof Paul Watson from Newcastle University. These investigators bring extensive skills in user experience, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing to address how the digitally-augmented built environment can improve the mobility, social connectedness, physical activity, and wellbeing of older adults.

Expanding this core team were researchers from Medicine, Architecture and Design. Prof McMurdo is a senior consultant physician specialising in Medicine for the Elderly with a long-standing research focus on interventions to maintain independence through physical activity, Ms White and Dr Lim brought expertise in creating designs humanising sensors so that their use will fit into the lives of care home residents. Dr McIntyre provided the architectural expertise needed to bring together these varying areas of expertise to consider the impact of and on building design.

Our Project Partners

The BESiDE project was able to complete its goals through the contributions of our Project Partners.

Collective Architecture Limited

Collective Architecture was established to pursue themes of participation and sustainability in architecture. Their output is highly varied, ranging from intimate community installations to large scale urban regeneration.

“In modelling the care environments, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the BESiDE team will uncover insight to aid designers to enhance older peoples experiences of aging. The aspect of involving appropriate technology for supporting and enabling older people is something we within the discipline of Architecture are particularly excited by as we design for an ageing world” - Fiona Welch, Architect

Balhousie Care Group

Balhousie Care Group is Scotland’s largest privately owned provider of care in nursing homes, residential care homes and advanced specialist care centres. Their staff of 850 provide care for up to 1000 residents in 26 Balhousie Care Homes.

“Buildings can be part of the therapy making peoples’ lives better or they can create barriers and by the cause of incapacity, dependancy and low spirits. We believe good buildings can help older people and we now have the potential to help designers of the future create appropriate buildings which are inclusive of age offering a model for a growing populations of adults living longer lives” - Sandra Ross, Director of Operations

Balcarres Care home - Bupa Care Services

Across 300 care homes in the UK, BUPA offer both short and long term residential and nursing care services supporting frail and elderly, dementia and specialist care needs. Balcarres Care Home is a residential care home, with 36 rooms for occupancy, that used to be a private house but has been converted into a Care Home.

“BESiDE’s research proposal addresses the investigation of the ‘Quality of the Environment’ and we are very keen to be involved with this, as we hope the findings from the research will be used to improve the resident’s environment. I am particularly interested in how appropriate technology can solve the problems experienced by our residents and how such factors of independence, wellbeing and mobility can be supported within our home.” - Lynn Maclean, Balcarres Care home manager

Heathfield Residential Home Ltd.

Heathfield is a privately owned residential care home providing quality care (respite or longer term care) and accommodation for elderly ladies.

“We at Heathfield Ladies Residential home are very interested to assist with the BESiDE project as a Partner. Through this partnership we hope that the flow of information can be a two way communication process as we collaborate in ways which will help us to develop our building to facilitate innovative ways in which we can improve the lives of our residents” - Paul Rowley, Director of Heathfield Residential Home

Our Advisory Board

The work of the BESiDE project was reliant on the support and expert opinion of our advisory board.  They took the role of critical friend to the project providing advice, critique and support. The board members were invited from key stakeholder groups reflecting the broad range of potential impact our research has.

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Mr Barry Hodgson
Newcastle University
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Susan Castle
Care Inspectorate
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Mr Gerry Farquharson
Dundee Institute of Architects
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Prof. Claire Goodman
University of Hertfordshire
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Mr Alistair Hodgson
Joint Improvement Team
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Nicky Hodgson
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Prof. John Richards
IBM Watson Group
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Ms Jane Simpson
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
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Mr Neil Smith
National Register of Access Consultants
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Dr Aart Van Halteren
Philips Research
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Denise McCorkindale
Balhousie Care Group
Project Partner
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Lyn Mclean
BUPA Care Group
Project Partner
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Mr Paul Rowley
Heathfield Residential Home
Project Partner
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Fiona Welch
Collective Architecture
Project Partner


This work was supported by the RCUK Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Programme grant number EP/K037293/1 - BESiDE: The Built Environment for Social Inclusion in the Digital Economy.

Essential initial support and support in recruiting community-dwelling older adults was provided by SiDE, RCUK Digital Economy grant EP/G066019/1.

Lifelong health and wellbeing, research for healthy agingResearch Councils UK Digital Economy, Transforming Business and Society