UCL Research Domains


Walk and Connect

Social Science Plus 2023 Pilot Project

Architecture and Urban Planning + Transportation Studies + Geography
Walk and Connect: Exploring the built environment’s influence on physical activity and social engagement for lower-income older residents in London through citizen science
Active ageing and loneliness are two significant and related issues that particularly affect disadvantaged populations in deprived urban areas. Loneliness and inactivity are both associated with poorer quality of life, increased mortality, and frailty. The primary research question will explore the built environment factors that enable and promote active ageing and social connectedness in low-income neighbourhoods.

Project’s aims and objectives
The project aims to understand the urban built environment characteristics that enable or inhibit physical activity and social engagement for older adults living in low socio-economic areas. By training and engaging participants as citizen scientists, this exploratory study will use co-produced mapping, focus groups and photo-elicitation as tools to explore relevant built environment factors. We aim for a process of co-production of knowledge where the citizen scientists, if interested, will be involved in analysis and writing.


  • To engage active older members of the community as citizen scientists and provide citizen science training. With the help of these citizen scientists, the research team will recruit more residents to participate in two collaborative mapping workshops.
  • To uncover urban built environment factors that encourage and/or discourage residents to leave their homes, connect with their communities, and be physically active. Examples of such factors can range from availability, accessibility, and distance to existing destinations that provide social engagement opportunities, as well as the shape, quality, and age-friendliness of walking paths.
  • To employ an exploratory approach and coproduce data without feeding ideas to participants about what constitutes an age-friendly urban environment, particularly for older residents in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, known to report high levels of loneliness. The first workshop will allow co-produced mapping of these issues and amenities and the second workshop will use photo elicitation to provide more details about the issues in connection to the built environment.
  • To develop policy and design guidance to better meet older and low socioeconomic residents’ mental and physical health and built environment needs.

Research Team
Principal Investigator
Lusi Morhayim, Lecturer, Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction, Bartlett, UCL

Non-Social Science Co-Investigator
Professor Nick Tyler, Chadwick Chair of Civil Engineering, Dept of Civil, Environ & Geomatic Engineering, Engineering Sciences, UCL

Second Co-Investigator
Professor Muki Haklay, Professor of GIScience, Extreme Citizen Science Research Group, Department of Geography, Social & Historical Sciences, UCL.

Early Career Researcher
Dr Rachel Frost, Senior Research Fellow and Trial Manager, Primary Care & Population Health Institute of Epidemiology & Health, Population Health Sciences, UCL