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EPSRC - Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

EPSRC’s EQUAL (Extending Quality of Life) Initiative

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) established the EQUAL (Extending Quality of Life) initiative to address the needs of an ageing population and people with disabilities to help them achieve a better life style, participate more fully and actively and avoid or alleviate the effects of disability. The potential benefits of EQUAL are seen as widespread and substantial: better health, a more active life, better quality of life, greater continuing participation in society, a lighter burden on society, and the generation of considerable business opportunities for UK firms to exploit in global markets.

Further details of this initiative are available from the EPSRC website at AgeingResearch/default.htm.


The aim of the EPSRC’s call for research proposals was to stimulate high quality, novel research addressing the needs of older people and others that need additional support to lead a full and active life. Collaborative research was sought between engineers, scientists and organisations that can bring the user perspective to bear (e.g. charities, local authorities).

The challenge of the fourth call was to support research that aims to prolong the independence of elderly people or disabled people and to enable them to remain in their own homes for longer. The research was also to consider the needs and burden on carers; whilst wanting to allow people to remain in their own homes for longer, this must not be at the expense of their privacy and their living space should not become a prison.

In EQUAL 4, EPSRC invested just over £3 million in five major research consortia looking at prolonging independence in old age. The I’DGO consortium was established under this call and its first project (I’DGO 1) initiated in 2004.

top of pageAbout the first I'DGO project – I’DGO 1

The I’DGO 1 project embraced the overall aim of the I’DGO consortium in that it aimed to identify ways of ensuring the outdoor environment is designed inclusively, to improve the quality of life for older people. In focussing on the changing needs of older people, the consortium addresses issues that are relevant to disabled people regardless of age.

The I’DGO 1 project involved several complementary research strands which focus on different aspects of the environment: landscape, urban form and detailed design. The outputs aim to provide a holistic understanding of quality of life issues and stakeholder requirements in relation to designing, managing and using the outdoor environment.

The Research Challenge

  • The relationship between older people and their environment is increasingly recognised as important for quality of life
  • Very little research has addressed engagement with the outdoor environment for older people
  • Designers, planners and developers are hampered by a lack of support to make good design decisions in order to improve accessibility of complex and varied outdoor environments

Key Objectives

  • To establish QoL criteria for older people in terms of their access to the outdoor environment.
  • To develop valid and reliable methods and tools for assessing aspects of the outdoor environment in relation to QoL.
  • To investigate how different outdoor environments perform in relation to these QoL criteria.
  • To explore the relationship between the outdoor environment, people’s levels of activity outdoors and measures of wellbeing and QoL
  • To identify design features of outdoor environments which are positive or negative in contributing to the QoL for older people and that help or hinder older people in using the outdoors.
  • To identify form/character and content of guidance most useful to designers and providers of outdoor environments.
  • To provide an evidence base and guidance for policy makers, developers, designers and user groups on creating inclusive outdoor environments for all people, particularly older people.

Who Benefits?

  • All users of outdoor environments – inclusive design benefits everyone
  • Planners, designers, managers, developers and landowners of open space in the built environment, housing associations, community and residents’ associations
  • Organisations and groups representing the interests of older people and disabled people
  • Academics and other researchers studying the built and natural environment

Dessemination Strategy

  • A user-friendly web site with accessible and attractive information and guidance for built environment professionals, other professional and lay audiences, and academics
  • A findings summary sent to user groups
  • Papers in academic and professional journals
  • Input into guidance and recommendations for designers and providers of outdoor environments, including planners, highways authorities, urban designers, landscape architects, access officers, and street furniture manufacturers, through liaison with key partners and government agencies.
  • Collaborators engaged to maximise dissemination at every stage

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I'DGO - Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors. Last updated 10 June 2007

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