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The Observatory for Sport in Scotland is helping a housing organisation to investigate and trial interventions that could create more healthy and active neighbourhoods.

The OSS was commissioned by Blackwood Homes to support a four-year research project into healthy ageing over the next four years. Scotland’s population is forecast to grow to 5.7m by 2039 with a doubling in the number of people aged over 75, to 800,000. Alongside this are expectations of steep rises in dementia, mobility problems and social isolation.

Blackwood Homes provides a range of accessible and bespoke housing for people with a range of disabilities and housing needs across Scotland. It was recently awarded funding from Innovate UK, part of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding agency, to set up a ‘Trailblazer’ programme for Healthy Ageing that develops and delivers products, services and business models that can be adopted at scale to support people as they age.

The ‘challenge’ is to help the population live for five more productive years thus increasing contribution to GDP. To achieve this, Blackwood is working with a range of partners to develop five key areas:

  • Designing age-friendly homes
  • Sustaining physical activity
  • Managing common complaints of ageing
  • Supporting social connections
  • Creating healthy and active places

The OSS has provided research expertise and evidence in the fifth area, using sport and physical activity to shape interventions that can create healthy and active places to live. The work will focus on three demonstrator neighbourhoods, in Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeenshire.

OSS Executive Director David Ferguson said: “This is a very exciting project which has the potential to make a real difference to housing and communities across Scotland.

“The OSS is focused on using research, evidence and analysis to help stakeholders across Scotland to open up sport activity to more people. Our neighbourhood environments have changed significantly over the past 20-30 years and while much of it is good, we have lost many of the natural playgrounds that allowed localised activity for all ages, and that has affected our health.

“At the OSS, we have been looking at how different sectors can rethink environments to enable people to take part in fun activity with other people and without needing to go far from their door. Blackwood are a very forward-looking organisation and share that thinking. This project will look specifically at the older population and we hope to be able to bring in some thinking from around Europe where planning, housing and health have come together to create housing and environments that create more active communities.”