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The Ageing Lab

Exploring interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of older people

News archive 2018

Christmas Newsletter

For a roundup of our work over the past year, here's our Christmas Newsletter for 2018! From all the team, a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.


December 2018

Heriot-Watt research hits the top ten

Heriot-Watt’s research on healthy ageing is among the top ten most-read articles on ageing research and policy according to the Centre for Ageing Better.


Centre for Ageing Better blog: Christmas Special – Our top ten research and policy stories in 2018

December 2018

Game-changing investment in people affected by dementia

A ground-breaking investment of £2.5 million has been announced by the Life Changes Trust to create a School of Leadership in Dementia and a National Forum for Dementia Policy and Practice. Both initiatives will support people with dementia and carers to become experts, leaders and influencers in Scotland.


Age Scotland blog: People living with dementia and their unpaid carers at the heart of new National Policy and Practice Forum

December 2018

Farewell...and welcome

Research team 2018Many of our participants and collaborators will have spoken or met with Dr Eleftheria Vaportzis over the past four years. Ria joined The Ageing Lab in 2014 and has made an important contribution to building our ageing intervention work at Heriot-Watt. She recently secured a lectureship at Bradford, and we wish her all the best for the future.

At the same time, Anna Sim joins us as Study Administrator. Anna previously worked at the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, and we are delighted to welcome her to the team.

December 2018

Heriot-Watt academics make star appearance at this year’s Fringe

A group of Heriot-Watt academics are due to entertain the crowds at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, now in its sixth year, is a unique programme of events that offers the public an opportunity to engage with world-class researchers in an educational yet entertaining environment.


Age Scotland Blog: What keeps you sharp?

July 2018

"What Keeps You Sharp?" back at the Edinburgh Fringe

Next month, Dr Alan Gow will be returning to the Fringe as part of Edinburgh Beltane's Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. His show, "What Keeps You Sharp?", is on August 7th (8.10pm) and 16th (1.30pm) and is a collaboration between the Department of Psychology at Heriot-Watt University, and the University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology. You can watch a short trailer and read the full show description below, and download the flyer here. Follow updates on the show's development via Twitter using the hashtag #WhatKeepsYouSharp and buy your tickets at

What Keeps You Sharp?: Isn’t the expression ‘having a senior moment’ awful? Yet people often think of changes in their mental skills with age in terms of decline. While some people do experience these changes, others do not. So how do thinking skills change through midlife and beyond, and do our lifestyles affect those changes? Join Alan Gow (Heriot-Watt University) to explore results from "What Keeps You Sharp?", a nationwide survey about attitudes towards the changes people expect in their thinking skills with age. See how your beliefs match the survey and explore how all that matches current evidence.

July 2018

Latest Interventions in Cognitive Ageing seminar held at Heriot-Watt

The research team hosted the second Interventions in Cognitive Ageing seminar at Heriot-Watt University at the end of June. The seminar began with a keynote presentation from Dr Christina Röcke, University of Zurich, which explored “Healthy ageing as captured in daily life: activities, emotions and cognition”. Christine Bell, Executive Officer at Cycling Without Age Scotland, then described how Cycling Without Age has become established in Scotland by sharing stories from many of those involved.

The second keynote presentation of the afternoon was given by Dr Ruth Peters, Neuroscience Research Australia, exploring "Risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia, gaps in the evidence base and the next steps". Project 
Director Dr Alan Gow closed the seminar with a summary of how findings from the What Keeps You Sharp? survey were being used to discuss changes in thinking skills, plus updates from The Intervention Factory project. The project continues to recruit people aged 65 and over to take part; if you know anyone who might be interested in getting involved in this research, you can download and share the participant recruitment poster and flyer.

During the breaks, attendees had the opportunity to discuss research on ageing and health at the poster sessions, which included recent analysis from members of the research team Dr Ria Vaportzis, Malwina Niechcial and Calum Marr, as well as work from colleagues across Heriot-Watt University and beyond. 
Elizabeth Bryan, Community Development Coordinator at Age Scotland, and colleagues shared materials from their work within communities across Scotland, and people were also able to experience a trishaw ride with the Cycling Without Age Scotland team!

Seminar 2018Seminar 2018Seminar 2018You can access slides from many of the speakers here and photographs from the event are on the Heriot-Watt Psychology Facebook page. The next Interventions in Cognitive Ageing seminar will be held in 2019. Email to receive details of this and other events. 

July 2018

Older people cycling project to be rolled-out nationally

Academics from Heriot-Watt University are due to help with a nationwide scheme to get older people on their bikes.

Following a successful trial in Falkirk, the bike initiative will now be rolled out across Scotland, encouraging older people to stay active, socialise and feel an integral part of their wider community.


May 2018

Bike scheme for older people rolled out across Scotland

Older people across Scotland will be able to stay active and socialise through an innovative cycling scheme being rolled out nationally.

Following a successful pilot scheme in Falkirk, the Scottish Government is providing £300,000 to set up the Cycling Without Age (CWA) project across the country. Originating in Denmark, CWA encourages volunteers to take older people for bike rides, using specially designed ‘trishaws’. It aims to help socially isolated older people meet others and be physically active.


May 2018

Research – we’re having a laugh…

Our research academics do important work that is genuinely changing lives and policy in a whole host of areas. Pulling them out of their comfort zone and in front of a non-academic audience isn’t always the easiest of tasks, but Alan Gow from our Psychology Department is no stranger to the stage. Alan is leading research on the effects of ageing on the brain and thinking skills and will be making his fourth Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas outing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, along with Anna Sedda, who is presenting on her work on disgust. Alan told us a bit more about CODI.


May 2018

Register for our Interventions in Cognitive Ageing 2018 seminar

Interventions in Cognitive Ageing 2018 seminar PosterThe Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt University is hosting its second annual seminar exploring intervention research in cognitive ageing. Dr Christina Röcke (University of Zurich) and Dr Ruth Peters (Neuroscience Research Australia) will deliver keynote presentations, and Christine Bell will showcase the work of Cycling Without Age Scotland (

Updates on the Ageing Lab’s current research project, The Intervention Factory, will also be included.

The seminar is being held in the James Watt Centre (JW2) at Heriot-Watt’s Riccarton Campus on 29th June 2018, from 1.30-5.30pm including poster sessions and refreshments. All are welcome to attend. To register for the event, please email

You can download a poster here; please circulate the details to any colleagues and networks you think might be interested.

May 2018

UK survey reveals beliefs about staying sharp

What Keeps You Sharp Report coverPeople across the UK expect their memory to worsen in their 50s, according to new research from Heriot-Watt University.

The results from the “What Keeps You Sharp?” survey, released today, reveals the majority of those asked believe lifestyle and genetics are equally important contributors to the changes they might experience.

Almost nine out of 10 people are of the opinion that there are things they can do to maintain or improve their thinking skills; however, when asked if they knew what those things were, less than six in 10 were sure. More than 3000 people aged between 40 to 98 years-old responded to the study from across the UK.


You can view and download the "What Keeps You Sharp?" report here; printed copies can also be requested by contacting the research team.

Age UK blog: New UK survey reveals our beliefs about staying sharp in later life

Irish Examiner: Brain smart: How to age-proof your memory

April 2018

Attractive attractions for older people

Senior VisitorsIt’s not uncommon for visitor attractions to create tailored programmes for different groups, often focussing on something that’s expected to be particularly appealing to that demographic. But when it comes to older people, provision is often targeted towards being dementia-friendly. However, what about those people in their 70s, 80s or older with no specific impairment…might there be a way to create a programme to suit their needs and interests within our museums and heritage attractions?


March 2018

Ageing Lab on the airwaves

BBC Radio Scotland Personal Best, presented by Gillian Russell: Couples' Coaching Cards & Growth Mindset (broadcast 12 and 17 February 2018), listen at

BBC Radio Scotland Brainwaves, presented by Pennie Latin: How To Stay Sharp (broadcast 7 and 11 February 2018), listen at You can also read a summary of the piece at

February 2018

Starting a new activity could help major research study

Volunteers from the Edinburgh and Lothians are being sought as part of a major research study examining how thinking and memory skills change as we age.

The study will include 300 adults aged 65 and over who will undergo a range of cognitive and psychological assessments before they start their new activity.

The activities chosen will vary in terms of the mental, social or physical engagement, but might include participating in language classes, taking up a sport or meeting new people in social clubs. After following their activity for 2-3 months, the volunteers will return for repeat assessments.


Participant recruitment posterNew activity? Can taking up a new activity help improve our thinking skills as we age?

If you’re aged 65 or over and would like to help us find out, please get in touch.

If you know anyone who might be interested in getting involved in our research, you can also download and share a poster and flyer.

January 2018

You can read our recent updates in the News section.