Improving sensory experiences for older people

In this long-term collaboration the Sensory Trust is working with the Centre’s experts in ageing and evidence synthesis to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults.

The Sensory Trust is a Cornwall-based organisation who aim to make outdoor places and the natural environment more accessible, attractive and useful for everyone – regardless of age, disability and social circumstances.

Initially supported by the Centre’s In Residence programme, the partnership has conducted a comprehensive systematic review to understand how sensory experiences can boost the health and wellbeing of older people.

This review focused on assessing the evidence for how older people, including those living with dementia, describe and value their sensory experiences with nature.

It demonstrated that older people derive considerable pleasure and enjoyment from their experiences with the natural environment, and showed their sensory experiences are important for making them feel connected, part of ‘ordinary life’ and that they belong to the wider world – all factors that enhance wellbeing.

The team have now secured funding from the Economic and Social Research Council’s Impact Acceleration scheme to help put their findings into practice.

“This is an important collaboration for Sensory Trust. It’s great to have the opportunity to bring our joint research to a wider audience, particularly with our networks in the care and health sectors.”

Through a series of meetings and workshops, they will bring together researchers, Sensory Trust team members and other practitioners in the field to develop a series of training materials that incorporate the results of their review.

Dr Noreen Orr is leading the project and said: “The European Centre has been collaborating with the Sensory Trust for over two years, and we’re delighted to continue out work together and enhance the impact of our research findings. This project is a fantastic example of how business-research partnerships can improve the care, and we hope that as a result older people will have enriched experiences in the natural world.”

Vicky Hutchinson, Operations Manager at the Sensory Trust said: “This is an important collaboration for Sensory Trust. It’s great to have the opportunity to bring our joint research to a wider audience, particularly with our networks in the care and health sectors. We look forward to sharing our expertise and working together to continue to improve the connections for older people with the environment around them.”