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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 was 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 in EQUAL 5 was to support a new round of EQUAL consortium research projects. This was to build on previous research, drawing on and extending the skills and knowledge base developed under existing EQUAL consortia. The I’DGO consortium was successful in gaining further funding of over £1.6m for a new consortium project, I’DGO TOO, starting in 2007.

About the second I'DGO project – I’DGO TOO

The I'DGO research consortium has a continuing overall aim to identify the most effective ways of ensuring that the outdoor environment is designed inclusively and with sensitivity to the needs and desires of older people, to improve their quality of life. In focusing on the changing needs of older people, the consortium will address issues that are relevant to a much wider range of people in society as a whole, including disabled people, frail or vulnerable people and those who care for them.

The proposed research under I'DGO TOO combines the skills and experience of three research centres and academic colleagues across five academic institutions. It brings this expertise together with that of a range of collaborators from different organisations, agencies and groups, ranging from ODPM to Age Concern, who are keen to use the findings of the research and benefit from it,

I’DGO 1 (2003-2006) aimed to investigate how and why outdoor environments affect older people’s quality of life and to identify the aspects of design that help or hinder older people in using the outdoors and achieving a good quality of life. I'DGO TOO focuses on particular policies and strategies that are currently being promoted by government as part of the sustainability agenda / urban renaissance, integrated communities and inclusive environments / where the potentially important, practical implications for older people's lives have not fully been explored and tested. It investigates how well outdoor environments in certain types of development, built in line with these policies, contribute to older people's health and wellbeing. It does so through research at three different levels of detail. It explores the implications of denser urban living on open space in housing, pedestrian-friendly approaches (such as Home Zones) in street environments and the practical consequences of using tactile paving in the urban environment. A range of innovative methods, some of which have been developed in earlier research by the consortium, will be used to examine in detail how design, and older people's perceptions of the designed environment, make a difference.

The voices of older people themselves are a key element in this research. I'DGO TOO recognises the great diversity and range of abilities, disabilities, aspirations, expectations and needs that are encompassed in the population of people over 65 years of age. From the beginning, older people will be involved in expressing what is important to them and in shaping the development of the programme. The approaches used treat older people and disabled people as co-researchers, rather than 'subjects', and the range of techniques place these people at the heart of the investigation. A number of different methods is used to ensure that diverse perspectives and evidence is collected to throw light on the questions and objectives of the research. The main issues to be addressed are: how residential outdoor space in higher-density 'urban renaissance' housing can best be delivered to optimise older residents' quality of life; whether Home Zones provide a good design solution in the context of an ageing population, and the implications of the design, sitting, laying and use of tactile paving for older people.

The implications of the findings will be important for policy-makers, planners, designers and other professionals working in the urban environment, as well as users of that environment. The research collaborators will help ensure that the outputs are useful and useable for the range of people and groups for whom this work is important. Guidance will be published in a range of formats and media, including attractive and accessible printed booklets as well as web-based publications targeted to suit the needs of different expert, academic, professional and lay audience.

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

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