By moving away from the rhetoric of compassion (Rogers, 2013), where older people are often seen as passive receivers rather than agents, this project intends to explore the role of ICTs in promoting and supporting agency of older people in civic contexts.

The main scenario for the project is a neighbourhood in the Sant Andreu district in Barcelona (Spain), wherein the City Council has adopted measures to attract people related to the Creative Industries and stimulate their development, while aiming to promote active participation of citizens in this new initiative. The pilot project has been developed around the concept of local communities creating a geo-localized game of information about their neighbourhood as a means of promoting the sharing of information between visitors and locals. The pilot aims to foster collaboration among local (inter-generational) communities, to limit and/or decrease new local disparity, and stimulate social development. The pilot would involve different types of communities, from old-age pensioners associations (e.g., Casal de Gent Gran (elderly) to Diablos (mainly young people) and AMPAs (parents of school-age children).

The main objective of this project is to empower older people as civic agents through the creation of IT-based urban leisure. With the concept of civic agents, we aim to explore how older people exert their agency in an IT-enabled scenario, and to understand how such agency unfolds within a community (civic) context, which extends beyond the specific ageing domain and includes matters and actors of the whole society.

We address our main research objective through the aforementioned case study conducted in the district of Sant Andreu in Barcelona (Spain). Within this case study we conducted participatory design activities designed to have older people and neighbours of different ages involved in the creation of the contents of the game. We expanded this case study by looking for other possible case studies that manifested themselves over the course of the project duration. For instance, we engaged with a book reading club of Àgora adult educational centre. This group of passionate readers showed interest in using our developed system to create routes around the cities about the books they were reading. We also draw upon our previous studies conducted over the last 10 years in order to unveil elements that contribute towards understanding further how older people manifest agency through the use of technologies in a variety of everyday situations. 

Throughout the project, we adopt a research-through-design approach which regards design as an inquiry tool that enables to explore future and potential practices and realities. We adopt an ethnographical perspective on our design activities in order to gain a deeper understanding of the contexts in which the studies is carried out, and also to challenge, expand and reflect on our research goals.

Researcher Team:
Josep Blat, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Valeria Righi, Univesitat Pompeu Fabra

Sergio Sayago, Universitat de Lleida

ACT Partner:
Universitat Pompeu Fabra


Project updates

  • ‘Urban Ageing’ publication on Communities & Technologies conference

“Urban ageing: technology, agency and community in smarter cities for older people” is an article published in the proceedings of the ACM C&T 2015 conference. The paper elaborates on the concept of smart cities for older people by drawing on two case studies we undertook in the past 4 years and on the initial findings of the design activities conducted as part of the ACT project “Exploring civic agency of elderly citizens through collaborative creation of digital games within urban communities”.

Abstract: Despite the widespread popularity of smart cities in policy and research fields, and the ever-increasing ageing population in urban areas, ageing issues have seldom been addressed in depth in smart city programs. The main focus has hitherto been on making physical environments ‘older people friendly’. The paper reviews studies in environmental gerontology, policies and HCI that show the multifaceted relationship between ageing and cities. It discusses two case studies with scenarios of engagement of older people in urban areas we undertook in the past 4 years. By drawing upon the results, we propose a vision of smart city that conceives of older people as embedded in intergenerational urban communities and capable of creating new engagement situations by reconfiguring IT-driven scenarios to their interests and social practices. This paper aims at expanding the current visions of smart cities for older people by building along three main dimensions: technology, agency and community.

Citation: Righi, V., Sayago S., Blat, J. 2015. Urban ageing: technology, agency and community in smarter cities for older people. In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Communities and Technologies (C&T 2015), June 27-30, Limerick, Ireland. pp. 119-128. ACM Press. 

  • Project presented at the Barcelona-Rotterdam – IoT/Making meeting

On the 19th of November 2015, the ACT project “Exploring civic agency of elderly citizens through collaborative creation of digital games within urban communities” has been presented at the Barcelona-Rotterdam – Internet of Thing, Making and Smart Cities meeting. Undergraduate students from the Rotterdam University, researchers from the Creating010 Knowledge Centre and the Interactive Technologies Research Group (UPF) participated at the meeting. The main topic of the event was about discussing which kind of technologies could be designed in order to engage older people in their neighbourhood communities.

  • Creating games in collaboration with L’Hospitalet City Council

Related with the pilot project objectives, we have conducted additional activities in collaboration with L’Hospitalet city council with the aim to understand how public bodies conceptualize games for engaging citizens, including older people. These activities resulted in the development of geo-localized games aimed to promote healthy habits. One of this game is tailored to older people. The games have been presented at the Mobile World Congress 2016.  Info of the games:

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