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The Ageing Lab

Exploring interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of older people

News archive 2015

A Tablet for Healthy Ageing in the pub

Skeptics 2015A productive year came to a close as Dr Ria Vaportzis shared interim results from the study at the Skeptics in the Pub Christmas Stocking event, organised by the Edinburgh Skeptics Society.

Ria discussed the potential for tablet computers to be used as intervention tools to improve cognitive function of older adults beyond repetitive brain training. The outcomes of the study are expected to be finalised early next year.

If you are interested in participating in future studies, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (; tel: 0131 451 8009).

December 2015

Tablet training completed

Participants in the Tablet for Healthy Ageing tablet computer training group completed their 10-week course this month. The final week of classes involved participants’ presentations on their topics of interest. Some of the topics included planning imaginary trips, communicating with family overseas, gardening, losing weight, taking and presenting photos, and tracing family history. Participants in both the tablet training and control groups are now returning to Heriot-Watt University to complete the same cognitive assessments and wellbeing questionnaires that they completed earlier this year. These repeat assessments are expected to be completed in mid-December, and we hope to be report the results early next year.

If you are interested in participating in future studies, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (email:; tel: 0131 451 8009).

October 2015

Disseminating focus group findings

Tablet poster 2015The Tablet for Healthy Ageing team have been presenting the findings from the first stage of the study, detailing the focus groups completed earlier in the year that explored how older adults perceive new technology and tablet computers. In early September, Dr Alan Gow presented a poster summarising the findings at CCACE’s 8th Annual Research Day, and in October, Dr Ria Vaportzis and Alan also presented the findings at the Department of Psychology’s research seminar series at Heriot-Watt University.

A paper describing the focus group study is currently under review, and full details will be added to the Publications page as this progresses.

October 2015

Tablet training reaches halfway stage

By the end of September, participants in the Tablet for Healthy Ageing tablet computer training had completed six weeks of their classes. During the past few weeks, participants have learned to use various functions on their tablets. Some of these functions include connecting to WiFi, sending and replying to emails, taking photos, using social media such as Twitter, and downloading applications (apps). Participants have shown interest in a broad range of apps including adult ballet, astronomy, takeaways, YouTube, Spotify, history and cooking. They have also been enjoying the social aspect of the weekly classes during which they share their new learning experiences.

If you are interested in participating in future studies, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (email:; tel: 0131 451 8009).

September 2015

The Great British Brain Off

In August, Project Director Dr Alan Gow returned to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with a new show entitled “The Great British Brain Off”, as part oEdinburgh Beltane's Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. The show examined various ingredients that might protect (or harm) the ageing brain. Lifestyle factors discussed included physical activity, diet and smoking, for example, with the audience determining what was explored in detail. The show was a collaboration between the Department of Psychology at Heriot-Watt University, and the University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE).

You can get a taster of the show from the trailer below, which was viewed over 2000 times between the CCACE YouTube channel and Age Scotland's Facebook page. One reviewer noted the show was "fun and fascinating, not intimidating like old school science lessons where you were afraid of the teacher and tried not to fall asleep. It also feels like something that you can easily understand", and you can read their 4-star review in full here.

Earlier in the month, Alan also appeared in the first episode of Sian Williams's new BBC Radio 4 series, How to Have A Better Brain. You can catch up on the series here, with a short extra clip exploring "How walking can help ward off dementia".

August 2015

Tablet training started

Tablet computersThe tablet training classes for the Tablet for Healthy Ageing study started in August. Fifty participants were randomly allocated to either a tablet training or control group (i.e., no tablet training). Participants in the tablet training group will be attending a 2-hour class once a week for 10 consecutive weeks. Classes will cover a range of useful tablet skills and applications including social networking, managing finances, finding and accessing local resources, planning a holiday, taking photos and shopping. All participants completed cognitive assessments prior to the training period, and the same cognitive assessments will be completed following the training period.

If you are interested in participating in future studies, 
please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (email:; tel: 0131 451 8009).

August 2015

Next phase of Tablet for Healthy Ageing underway

The first cognitive assessments for the Tablet for Healthy Ageing started in July and the aim is to recruit 50 participants by early August. Participants visit Heriot-Watt University to complete a number of tasks that measure cognitive ability, such as memory and attention, as well as some basic questionnaires. Half of these participants will then attend tablet computer training classes for 10 weeks. Following the training period, all participants will be asked to complete a second cognitive assessment, and the performance of the two groups will then be compared.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (email:; tel: 0131 451 8009).

July 2015

A Tablet for Healthy Ageing on the soapbox

Soapbox ScienceAt Soapbox Science in Glasgow, Dr Ria Vaportzis discussed how new technologies, like tablet computers, might be useful intervention tools to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults. She talked about how the Tablet for Healthy Ageing project is exploring using tablets to increase mental activity and engagement and how this might maintain cognitive abilities, such as memory, for longer.

Ria was one of 13 women scientists presenting at the event, which is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do.

People of all ages were very interested in the topic. “I had a wonderful and very engaging crowd. They asked interesting questions and got involved. We had a great time and laughed a lot”, says Ria.

If you weren't able to attend Soapbox Science, Ria describes her pre-event preparation here, and her highlights from the day here.

The next stage of the project is due to start soon. If you're interested in getting involved, or for further information, please contact Ria (email:; telephone: 0131 451 8009).

June 2015

Participants needed for a tablet computer intervention study

Intervention posterThe Tablet for Healthy Ageing team is recruiting participants for a tablet computer intervention study. Participants must be between 65-75 years old, and have no tablet computer experience. Potential participants will be screened prior to their participation to ensure they are eligible.

The purpose of the study is to examine the effect of a tablet computer intervention on cognitive function. Eligible participants will initially complete a number of tasks that measure cognitive functioning (e.g., memory, attention) and will complete some basic questionnaires. Then, half of these participants will attend classes during which they will learn how to use a tablet computer and various applications (e.g., plan a trip, find local resources). Classes will run for 10 weeks in various locations around Edinburgh, and participants will have to attend a class per week. Tablet computers will be provided. The other half of the participants will not attend any classes. After 10 weeks of classes, all participants (both those who attended the classes and those who didn’t) will again complete the same cognitive tasks and questionnaires.

If you are interested in hearing more, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (email:; tel: 0131 451 8009).

May 2015

Showcasing "A Tablet for Healthy Ageing"

Tablet For Healthy AgeingOur research team came closer to the public in April. The Tablet for Healthy Ageing project was showcased at the Eric Liddell Centre for the Spring Fling 2015 (organised by the South Edinburgh Arts Fair Association), and also at Broughton High School as part of the Live Well Later in Life event (organised by Edinburgh Council).

People were able to visit our stall to learn more about tablet computer technology, including getting to grips with a tablet, and to hear how new technology might be one way of delivering interventions for healthy ageing. A number of people took the opportunity to ask questions about the Tablet for Healthy Ageing project, or to sign up to take part.

If you’d like to participate in the study or would like further information, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (email:; telephone: 0131 451 8009).

April 2015

Presentations at the Aging and Cognition Conference

EUCAS conferenceBoth Project Director, Dr Alan Gow, and study collaborator, Professor Mike Martin, presented at the Aging and Cognition Conference in Dortmund, Germany, in April. Professor Martin delivered a keynote address entitled “Promoting Cognitive Health in Real Life Across the Lifespan: A Case for Reverse Transfer”, while Dr Gow’s presentation was part of a symposium he convened entitled “Lifecourse exposers and the ageing brain”. The full abstract is below.

Examining neuroprotective lifestyles and white matter damage: the Glostrup 1914 Cohort
Alan J. Gow, Ellen Garde, Egill Rostrup and Erik L. Mortensen

The lifestyle factors proposed as neuroprotective are many and varied, including leisure-time engagement, physical activity, occupational exposures, and social networks and support, for example. While many longitudinal studies of these determinants of cognitive ageing exist, it is still relatively rare for follow-ups to extend over many decades that combine repeat assessments of both the putative exposures and the cognitive or brain imaging outcomes. The current study reports associations between these exposures assessed on repeated occasions across 30 years (from age 50 to 80) and subsequent brain white matter hyperintensities.

In the Glostrup 1914 Cohort, participants were initially recruited at age 50 (N = 802) when they completed a battery of cognitive tests; they were reassessed every 10 years up to age 70, and then every 5 years thereafter. Associations between occupational, social and activity factors with cognitive change have been previously reported from 50 to 80 years. These analyses will be extended to examine the associations between these cumulative lifestyle exposures and brain imaging parameters available for a subset of the cohort: 75 participants completed the MRI at age 80 from a potential 136, with a 2nd MRI at age 85 for 26 participants. The analyses will focus on identifying the occupational, social and activity factors from late midlife to old age that are associated with the presence and severity of white matter damage in the 80s.

April 2015

Focus groups completed

Focus groupEighteen participants between the ages of 65 and 76 took part in 3 focus groups at Heriot-Watt University. All participants had no previous tablet computer experience, and some were computer technology novices. Discussions centered around the perceived advantages and disadvantages of using tablets, how tablets could be helpful in addressing problems that older people might encounter, and reasons for not using tablets or computers to date. Participants also had the opportunity to have hands-on experience with several different tablets and use a number of applications.

The tablet experience was rated as positive by the majority of the participants. Two-thirds stated that it was likely or very likely they would use a tablet in the future, and almost all said they would like to learn to use a tablet.

If you’d also like to use a tablet and get involved in the next stage of the Tablet for Healthy Ageing project, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (; 0131 451 8009).

March 2015

Volunteers needed for focus groups about ageing and technology

Focus groupThe Tablet for Healthy Ageing team is looking for people to participate in focus groups.

Participants may be eligible if they are between 65 and 75 years old, have either some or no computer experience, and do not have any tablet computer experience. If you are interested in hearing more, please contact Dr Ria Vaportzis (email:; telephone: 0131 451 8009).

The focus groups will involve asking participants about their perceptions, opinions and attitudes towards tablet computers. Participants will also interact with tablet computers. Questions will be asked in an interactive environment where participants will be free to talk with other group members.

Potential participants will be screened prior to their participation to ensure they are eligible.

The study will take approximately 2 hours, and refreshments will be provided. Participants will be reimbursed for their travel expenses.

If you'd like to share these details with your networks, a poster can be downloaded here.

February 2015

You can read our recent updates in the News section.