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A new two-year project which aims to shape future policy on healthy ageing in the UK and India has been given the seal of approval from the Deputy First Minister.

The news comes as academics from universities across Scotland, including Heriot-Watt University, accompany John Swinney on a mission trip to India this week.

The new Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) project aims to look at how society can best respond to the health and wellbeing needs of older people when local governments are designing city centres and towns in the UK and India. 

Working with partners, academics from Heriot-Watt recently visited Delhi, Calcutta and Hyderabad to find out more about how older adults experience ageing across different urban environments.

By 2020 two-thirds of the people across the world will be living in cities and at least a quarter of those urban populations will be over 60.

Now the new study aims to address how society responds to a growing aging population and how town and city planners can create places which support healthy and active ageing for older people. 

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The quality of the places we live and work can have a profound impact on our health and wellbeing.

“Changing patterns of development and our focus on inclusive growth mean we need to understand and plan for the needs of people of all ages over the long term.

“We welcome work to explore this further from an international perspective and look forward to learning more as the project progresses so that it can help inform future planning policies.”

Dr Ryan Woolrych, Associate Professor said: “This announcement is particularly apt because of the Deputy First Minister’s trip to India at the moment, and the fact that delegation will be discussing and looking at health during the trip.

“There is no doubt that an ageing population is a global challenge requiring innovative solutions at a city level. One which is also a huge opportunity both in Scotland and the developing world and we want to drive new collaborative approaches to ageing well. 

“That’s why we’re really keen to look at ways in which we can support an ageing population by contributing our expertise now and working at a local and national level with the aim of shaping policy.

 “Having already visited India, a few weeks ago, we will now take our findings and explore ways to create communities that will have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of older adults.”

Dr Woolrych is leading a top team of academics on the project including Dr Jamuna Duvvuru and Dr Srikanth Reddy at the Centre for Research on Ageing at Sri Venkateswara University, alongside collaborators at HelpAge India, the Calcutta Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology (CMIG) and the National Institute of Family Welfare.

Four universities from the UK are also involved including Heriot-Watt University, the University of Dundee, Manchester Metropolitan University, and the University of Keele.

The Deputy First Minister’s trip to India between 23-29 November will seek to promote trade and investment between Scotland and India in the priority areas of technology and life science.

The programme has been organised in partnership with Scottish Development International, Universities Scotland, the British Council and VisitScotland.