Seeing the City Anew: Illuminating the Embodied Experience of an Age-Friendly City

For my undergraduate research project, I worked with people aged 50+ from Chorlton, Manchester to explore everyday embodied and sensory experiences of place.  Together we explored the less-tangible aspects of experience in five, mutually agreed, city centre areas.  These areas were then visited with a number of voluntary participant’s where they vocalised their stream of consciousness as we moved through various places.


Understanding Senses of Place in Older Age: The Neighbourhood and Memory

My Masters research provided a chance to focus on a specific aspect of experience and to trial some more creative and experimental methods in preparation for my current PhD.  I was specifically concerned with the interrelation amidst memory, sense of place and older age at the neighbourhood scale.  Taking ontological and epistemological cues from more-than representational theories, this research utilised arts-based methods (collaging, photo-walks and photo-talks) to experiment with different methodological approaches whilst working with older people.

Age-Friendly Seating and Sense of Place

Between July and September 2015, I led a participatory project for Manchester City Councils Public Health team to explore how older residents understand and experience a variety of seating in different areas of Manchester city centre.

The WHO Age-Friendly Guide, which has a focus on urban design, highlighted public seating as a necessary feature of an age-friendly environment.  Various policy and academic publications have since reinforced this observation, often with a focus on design.  This type of practical guidance however, risks excluding the equally important, less obvious and more complex, relational dimensions amidst design-people and -senses of place.

The project focused on both the design of seating and the more complex aspects of place, from an age-friendly perspective.  Focus groups, a bench-audit and ‘go-alongs’ were utilised to identify and visit key city-centre areas where the place felt ‘different’.  Participants were asked to share their interpretations and sensory experiences of these places whilst reflecting on the seating in the area.

This participatory and immersive approach to design moves away from a ‘means-tested’ and ‘blueprint’ formula and instead reveals alternative imaginaries of what age-friendly, place-sensitive design might look like.  It also brings together two aspects typically addressed in isolation: design and sense of place.