University of Portsmouth Ageing Network

Research Projects

There are a diverse range of research topics being explored across the University and with external partners in the field of ageing. Here we set out a selection of some of our research activities as they align to the major priorities and related challenges for European Ageing Research.

Current Research Areas

Healthy ageing

Healthy Ageing for More Life in Years

This priority area includes the challenge of how to better organise and deliver interventions for health promotion. We have members within Portsmouth Business School, for example, working on a project which is modelling the effectiveness of support services offered to vulnerable people (Alan Leonard). ‘Supporting People’ provides housing related support, such as debt counselling and management of physical and mental health, to help vulnerable adults to live independently. The findings from this project will form a decision support tool to predict outcomes for vulnerable adults, identify those most likely to need extra support and help improve services.

Another challenge relates to understanding the process and defining concepts of healthy ageing and frailty. Researchers from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science (Jo Corbett) and Mathematics (Michael McCabe) are collaborating to model the physical capacity and physiological changes that occur with ageing by examining the performances of elite Masters athletes.

These athletes can be regarded as a model of 'successful ageing' and their athletic achievements can provide useful information regarding the upper boundaries for physical performance capacity with age. Progress to date – the modelling has now been completed and we look forward to a forthcoming paper in the autumn.


Inclusion and Participation in the Community and in the Labour Market

As well as activities addressing the over-arching challenge of the ageing workforce (for example, through Sports and Exercise Science, and Portsmouth Business School), we have research within the School of Computing which aims to investigate whether mobile applications can improve the well-being of people living with dementia through the use of positive memories. The initial stages of this research will establish the most effective types of memory to evoke positive emotions and develop guidelines for dementia-friendly computer interaction. (Claire Ancient).

We also have members of our network exploring the socio-economic, environmental, health and psychological problems older Bangladeshi people with mental illness experience in later life and what members of the Bangladeshi community perceive to be the reasons for these difficulties. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the current practice of assessment of dementia in Bangladeshi communities in England is below the standard level but currently there is little primary research to explore the reasons for or barriers to accessing current dementia services (Muhammad Hossain) .

Additionally, members of the network are exploring the public and local representations of minority groups and social inclusion in Europe, with a particular focus on Roma minorities and post- EU accession migrants (Annabel Tremlett). Under the challenge of ‘participation as consumer or user’ we have research being undertaken on online consumer behaviour of baby boomers (Liz Meech) and the design of food and drink packaging (PhD Graduates).

Maintaining and Regaining Mental Capacity

This priority area includes the challenge of researching cognitive training and physical exercise, which was one of the core questions arising from The PEOPPLE Project. This community-driven research and knowledge transfer project sought to identify questions of importance to local people through consultation, interviews, and focus groups, review the related research, and seek to implement solutions where feasible.

Through this process The PEOPPLE Project facilitated the implementation and evaluation a local wellbeing and memory group.

Guaranteeing the Quality and Sustainability of Social Protection Systems

This priority area includes the challenge of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) support for informal care-giving. Our School of Computing have expertise in this field, for example, looking at which ICT-solutions are most easily transferable and implementable on a large scale, and in contexts without strong traditions or digital competences in ICT. This priority area also covers questions such as: which are the innovative interventions to support people coping with chronic diseases? To contribute to this, we have research underway for example, looking at interventions to help communication between carers and people with dementia (Colin Barnes).

Ageing Well at Home and in Community Environments

Our research activities in this priority area span health & social sciences, sports & exercise science, architecture, business, psychology, computing, and creative technologies. We have researchers exploring: the physical, spatial, and technical aspects of the home environment for carers and people with dementia (Dia Soilemezi); the influence of flooring on falls and injuries, and the role of the physical environment in dementia care wards on falls (Julie Udell); environmental and spatial characteristics of retirement homes on occupants’ sense of comfort and wellbeing (Gillian Hookways, Sura Al-Maiyah); how people interact with the environment and the meanings given to objects and environments (Alan Costall) and how these relate to the design of suitable environments throughout the life course (Belinda Mitchell); the use of virtual reality for walking rehabilitation (Wendy Powell); and so on.

Unequal Ageing and Age-Related Inequalities

One of the challenges under this theme, is 'monitoring inequalities'. This challenge outlines the need to better understand the factors which strengthen resilience to potential stressors, and what mechanisms along the life course can reduce the adverse impact of risks and disadvantages.

This challenge ties in with our research exploring the experiences of ex-military personnel. We have research being undertaken to explore the experiences of ex-military personnel who have been exposed to combat conditions and their sense-making of these experiences as they return to civilian life (Kim Gordon), and expertise in the role of social support in coping with these experiences (Karen Burnell). Additionally, we have research expertise to address the challenge of ageing and migration as described under the ‘Inclusion and Participation in the Community and in the Labour Market’ theme above.

Biogerontology: from Mechanisms to Interventions

To help address the challenge of ‘oxidative stress, protein damage and protein maintenance’, The School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences are conducting research into proteins in the brain which are key to the ageing process and certain diseases (Arthur Butt). Their research is investigating areas and aspects of the brain that are important for cognitive function and storing memory. Through their research they hope to gain further insight into the aging brain and better understand diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Another challenge under this priority research area is that of ‘age-related modifications of skin and elastic tissues’. We have expertise in the Research Group in Breast Health, which has been exploring changes to the breast tissue with age, and for example the implications this has for the design of bras (Debbie Risius). In relation to the ageing body, we have researchers exploring the fatigue of hip and knee joints in the Engineering (Jie Tong), and the pathology of the bladder and associated areas to provide better treatments for the urinary tract (John Young).

Student Projects

Undergraduate projects in progress:

There are also a number of undergraduate projects being carried out which are connected to UPAN.

Previous projects include:

Jessica Elliott: 'Access to transport as a means of facilitating social inclusion: A case study of senior citizens in Portsmouth', BA (Hons) Human Geography.

Eleanor Dugdale: 'Studentification and the impacts on the retired population in Portsmouth', BA (Hons) Human Geography.

Postgraduate projects in progress:

Sepinoud Firouzmand: PhD on biomarkers for pathologies of the urinary bladder (The School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences).

Graham White: Prof Doc on biomarkers for Acute Kidney Infection (Royal Hampshire County Hospital)

Colin Barnes: PhD on the effectiveness of individualised communication interventions for carers of people with dementia (School of Health Sciences & Social Work). Colin has finished recruiting carers at the end of last year and 55 carers were recruited from 117 referrals. He is now nearing the end of data analysis and is hoping to have some confirmed findings by the beginning of the summer. Colin has also been successful in securing a small grant to work towards completion of his PhD in the early part of next year.

Nicholas Ford: "PhD exploring packaging development and older consumers": exploring the incorporation of elderly consumers needs into the new product development process (Portsmouth Business School );

Kim Gordon: PhD on ex-Armed Forces personnel making sense of transition from deployment to civilian life (Gordon, 2014); and impact of service experiences on health and wellbeing throughout the lifespan (School of Health Sciences and Social Work).

Muhammad Hossain: PhD on "Understanding dementia among the Bangladeshi Community in England" (School of Health Sciences & Social Work);

Alan Leonard: PhD on the economic analysis of community safety: evidence from the city of Portsmouth (Portsmouth Business School);

Liz Meech: PhD on understanding the online consumer behaviour of baby boomer consumers in the UK (Portsmouth Business School);

Skiaste Linceviciute: PhD on asthma related experiences, illness management and quality of life in older adults (65 and over) age group. In-depth interviewing will be the main tool to explore the lives of older people living with the chronic illness of asthma.

Dia Soilemezi: PhD on "the role of the home environment on the quality of life for carers of people with dementia" (School of Health Sciences & Social Work);

Completed PhDs:

Julie Udell: PhD on falls and injury prevention interventions (School of Health Sciences & Social Work).

Ideas for future projects:

These questions have been generated by the Public Health services at Portsmouth City Council, as part of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) Strategy Group.

  • Social Justice and Social Mobility – the intergenerational problem – positive engagement the issues.
  • Why is male life expectancy in the city’s most deprived areas comparatively so short.
  • Use an assets approach to profile people and place in our most deprived areas – Buckland, City Centre, Wymering, Paulsgrove and Somerstown.
  • General health and wellbeing issues facing veterans.
  • Veterans and ‘low-level’ mental health needs, the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies-type services and its appropriateness for veterans.
  • Experiences of living with dementia in the city.
  • End of life care – aspirations and practice in preparing families/partners for the death of a loved one.
  • An exploration of the influence that user-led organisations can have over policy and practice.
  • How social-marketing techniques can be used to shape social care services.
  • Theory and practice of how the views of people with dementia, and caregivers inform how care services should be organised.
  • Access to information about health and social care: What information and communications channels work best for the actual and potential profile of service users in Portsmouth – testing the findings of the first stage of HealthWatch/University research on people’s experiences of signposting for health and social care.
  • Examining the cultural changes required of social care practitioners’ practice in terms of promoting personalisation, direct payments, accessing community-based solutions etc.
  • Examining the capacity/capability of social care and health care professionals (practitioners, training, managers) to change culture/practice quickly enough to be able to respond effectively to this changing agenda; What evidence is there of low level prevention work being effective?

Please contact us if you intend to work on one of these ideas; we can help connect you with other relevant individuals and keep our records up-to-date.