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No. 83 of November 7, 2013

New junior research group investigates generationally sound district

Getting old and still staying healthy and independent, who doesn’t wish for that? According to ageing research findings, seniors cope better when they live an active lifestyle. The living environment, i.e. the neighbourhood, buildings, roads, parks and local supply possibilities but also climatic conditions thereby play an important influential role. A junior research group at the University of Stuttgart, funded by the Fritz und Hildegard Berg Foundation with a sum of around 300,000 Euros and other partner institutes, are to contribute towards designing quarters that are generationally sound and promote health.

The best place to stay active up to a grand old age is in the familiar residential district. A junior research group with the participation of the University of Stuttgart is investigating how to design quarters that are generationally sound and promote health. Photo: University of Stuttgart/InSpo

The population is getting older, urbanisation increasing, likewise the isolation of the individual. A second aspect is the climatic change, greatly heating up the urban quarters in the summer. In this area of tension urban and spatial planners are called for to design the city of the future in such a way that all generations feel at home and older people are able to live independently in the district as long as possible. “Urban districts” in which people like moving around outdoors are the supporting element for living independently in old age“, according to Prof. Wolfgang Schlicht from the Chair of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Stuttgart, who supervises the young researchers jointly with Professor Clemens Becker (Stuttgart), Frank Oswald (Frankfurt am Main), Stefan Siedentop (Dortmund) and Antje Stokman (University of Stuttgart).

In the course of the project five young scientists from Gerontology, Geriatrics, Health Sciences, Landscape Architecture and Urban and Spatial Planning will be working jointly from 2014 onwards on describing the mobility-promoting, generationally sound city. They will develop reliable methods and explain the person-environment interactions leading to or hindering mobility. Their doctoral theses will concentrate on the diverse interactions between environmental (climatic, acoustic and air quality, structural-spatial aspects) requirements and expectations of older people. Taking the example of the City of Stuttgart the researchers describe and explain what hinders the physical and social mobility of older people, what promotes it and what effect it has on the autonomy, health and well-being of the older people.

Older people “transport” biographical experiences from past situations in life and have a diverse range of lifestyles. They frequently live in the same district for decades. “It is the living environment in particular that influences everyday life especially in old age and much more so than in younger years and thus contributes towards growing old being successful or failing“, said Prof. Frank Oswald from the Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main.

Climatic influences also have an impact on everyday behaviour. High temperatures with a simultaneous high air humidity force older people to become inactive in the summer weeks. Once inactive, the loss of vital life functions soon threatens and the ability to master everyday life independently is reduced. “During the summer of 2003 old people died prematurely in the south of Germany who could have survived longer. If we had had more shading, ventilation, vaporisation and also other measures in designing the district still unknown in their effect, then we would be able to prevent such premature fatalities“, said Dr. Clemens Becker, Chief Physician from the Geriatric Rehabilitation Clinic at Robert-Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart. “The project is challenging with its interdisciplinary compilation and it is extremely promising to explain the living and residing of older people in their urban district. The approach increases our urban, spatial and landscape architectural expertise with which we are able develop guidelines for a better urban design”, according Prof. Antje Stokman from the Chair of Landscape Architecture and Ecology at the University of Stuttgart and Prof. Stefan Siedentop, the Head of the Institute for Urban and Spatial Planning at the University of Dortmund.

Further information:
Prof. Wolfgang Schlicht, University of Stuttgart, Chair for Sport and Health Sciences, tel. 0711/685- 63291, Email: wolfgang.schlicht (at) inspo.uni-stuttgart.de
Andrea Mayer-Grenu, University of Stuttgart, Department University Communication, Tel. 0711/685-82176, Email: andrea.mayer-grenu (at) hkom.uni-stuttgart.de
 


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