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The Ageing Lab

Exploring interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of older people

News archive 2019

Christmas Newsletter

For a roundup of our work over the past year, here's our Christmas Newsletter for 2019! From all the team, a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.


December 2019

Celebrating the Principal’s Research Impact and Engagement Awards

The inaugural Principal’s Research Impact and Engagement (PRIME) Awards took place last week in a glitzy and entertaining event at the Edinburgh Business School.

Four awards were presented to well deserving winners, recognising and celebrating excellence in research impact and public engagement with research.


December 2019

Q&A at Brain Health Day

In August 2019, The Ageing Lab hosted over 200 people at a special Brain Health Day event at Heriot-Watt University. We shared progress on our study looking at how taking up new activities might have benefits for thinking skills, as well hearing from colleagues and collaborators exploring different aspects of brain health. During the afternoon, our guests were asked to leave questions for the research team. We’ve compiled those questions and provided what we hope are some useful answers. 

You can access the Q&A at Brain Health Day here.

November 2019

Heriot-Watt professor recognised for "Driving Global Impact"

The results of the first Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact have been announced, and a Heriot-Watt academic has been named as a runner-up.

Professor Alan Gow, of the University’s Department of Psychology, was one of ten people to be shortlisted earlier in the year.

The top three recipients have just been announced, with Professor Gow being named as one of two runners-up.


November 2019

Meet our newly promoted colleague

Meet our newly promoted colleague - Professor Alan Gow. Read more...

November 2019

Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact announced

Nature: Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact winners

Nature: Nature’s impact prize

November 2019

Musical activity and cogntive ability

The recent publication of a paper exploring associations between musical activity and cognitive ability in people aged 60 and over was reported in the media.

The Times: Music ‘plays key role in better mental health during old age

The Sunday Post: Playing an instrument is key to staving off ageing, research from Scots university finds

November 2019

Turning the tables on his audience

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (CODI)—a series of presentations during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from academics from the city's four universities—usually follows a standard format, with the speaker delivering a 30 min talk, followed by 15 min of questions. Alan Gow, Associate Professor of Psychology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK, turned the format on its head by instead posing questions to his audience during This Show Will Make You Sharper! on Aug 10, 2019.


October 2019

The Psychologist Guide to… Retirement

The British Psychological Society have just produced their latest "The Psychologist Guide to...". Journalist Ella Rhodes talks to psychologists to get some evidence-based tips on retirement.


October 2019

Age UK at Brain Health Day

Six things we learned at Brain Health Day 2019: We all want to stay as sharp as we can as we get older. Age UK headed to Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to hear about the latest research into cognitive ageing.


September 2019

Brain Health Day at Heriot-Watt

Brain Health Day 2019Over 200 people attended a special event at Heriot-Watt University, exploring research about what might keep us sharp as we age.

Brain Health Day was hosted by The Ageing Lab from the University’s Department of Psychology. The event celebrated the end of a 3-year study led by the team looking at how taking up new activities might have benefits for thinking skills.

The audience were given a very first look at some of those results, but those were kept to the end of a packed afternoon.Earlier in the programme, guests heard about other work led by The Ageing Lab, including a UK-wide survey of over 3000 people exploring what people know about the factors related to brain health, and their partnership with Cycling Without Age Scotland.

The Ageing Lab’s talks were complemented by colleagues from Psychology’s Memory Lab who shared their research about how rest might help consolidate memory, even in people with specific memory problems.

Research findings from collaborators were also shared on the day, including an ongoing study where older people become volunteers within school setting led by Strathclyde University, and a summary of a study that’s been exploring brain health for 20 years at the University of Edinburgh.

Guests received a warm welcome from the Principal who highlighted the benefits of learning and engagement at all stages of life, a key theme throughout the day.

As well sharing the latest research, partners from Age Scotland and Age UK highlighted how they work in collaboration with academics to develop and communicate messages to the public in order to support older people in communities across the country. Age Scotland hosted a very busy stand during the break, as did the Adult Education Programme from the City of Edinburgh Council where many of the activities in The Ageing Lab’s most recent study were based.


Photographs from the event are on the Heriot-Watt Psychology Facebook page.

August 2019

Six academics walk into a Fringe venue…

No, that’s not the start of a bad joke but a summary of how some Heriot-Watt researchers spent a few days in August.

Their appearances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe were part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas.

Now in its seventh year, the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas puts sharing and discussing research at the heart of the world’s largest arts festival.

This year, Heriot-Watt had six academics in the programme appearing across eight performances, a record for our university. Our contributions ranged from dramatic solutions for global food shortages with Dr Ross Alexander, Assistant Professor in EGIS, to exploring why we feel disgust.


August 2019

Heriot-Watt academics to educate and entertain at the Fringe

Heriot-Watt academics will take to the stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.

A group of Heriot-Watt academics will perform six different shows in this year’s Fringe Festival – the most shows Heriot-Watt has had in the programme yet – as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas.

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 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: Staying sharp at the Edinburgh Fringe

August 2019

Local Lab: Can taking up new activities improve the health and wellbeing of older people?

How do our thinking skills change as we age? Do our lifestyles affect those changes? These are the key questions directing research being undertaken by Dr Alan Gow and his team in The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt University.

What goes on inside the Ageing Lab?
The Ageing Lab explores how being active and engaged in later life might help to reduce or delay age-related mental decline. Our current project is ‘The Intervention Factory’ which considers community-based activities as potential interventions for cognitive ageing. We are gathering clearer evidence on which real life activities might deliver brain health benefits.


July 2019

Psychology academic shortlisted for ‘Driving Global Impact’ award

A Heriot-Watt academic has been shortlisted for the Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact.

Professor Alan Gow, of the university’s Department of Psychology, is one of ten people to be shortlisted.

Nature Research, part of Springer Nature, in partnership with Tencent established the awards to celebrate “researchers whose work has made, or has the potential to make, a positive impact on society”.The annual award focusses on a different area of research each year. Brain sciences is the topic for 2019, recognising “researchers who are revolutionising our understanding of the brain and translating this understanding into real-world impact”.

Professor Gow’s research focusses on the lifestyles and behaviours that promote brain health in old age.


Nature: Nature Research Awards for Driving Global Impact shortlist

July 2019

Heriot-Watt academic contributes to new report on ageing

A major report concludes the challenges of ageing need to be considered across all stages of life.

'Transforming the Future of Ageing' was compiled by a working group of leading researchers and clinicians from across Europe, including Alan Gow, Professor in Psychology at Heriot-Watt University.

Professor Jean-Pierre Michel, working group chair, said: "In Europe and around the world, people are living longer than ever before. This is one of the greatest achievements of the past century.

"But it also brings challenges for our societies and the European Union as a whole. We must adjust to what is projected to be an ageing and shrinking workforce, and find financially viable ways to deliver high-quality healthcare for all."


July 2019

Keeping sharp at the Edinburgh Fringe

Next month, Professor Alan Gow will be returning to the Fringe as part of Edinburgh Beltane's Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas"This Show Will Make You Sharper!" is on August 10th (1.30pm) and 14th (8.10pm). 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 #MakeYouSharper and buy your tickets at

This Show Will Make You Sharper!: Staying sharp as you age is easy… just "eat this super-berry", “do these five simple things” or "play this game to beat dementia"! But what if it’s not as simple as the hype suggests? If we need to put in a bit of effort to keep our brains healthy, would we be willing to do that, and do we even know what those challenging things might be? Join Alan Gow (Heriot-Watt University) to explore what we know about how our thinking skills change as we age, and what we might do to stay sharp..

July 2019

Older people are feeling the wind in their hair through cycling

A cycling initiative that brings older people to the great outdoors has issued a new report.

The report explains the benefits of a scheme that takes older people living in care homes out for a cycle - on specially designed trishaws.

A Heriot-Watt research team has been working with Cycling Without Age since the first group was established in Scotland – with a trial set up in Falkirk in 2017.

Researchers will continue the work looking at the mental, physical, health and wellbeing benefits – as well as the effects on mood, anxiety, social engagement, loneliness and isolation.


June 2019

The challenges of ageing must be faced by the young, top scientists tell new Commission

Society must tackle the challenges presented by ageing in every generation – not leave them until old age.

This is the key conclusion of a major new Evidence Review Report entitled Transforming the Future of Ageing, published today (27 June) by SAPEA and led by the Federation of European Academies of Medicine.

The report is destined for the desks of the new European Commissioners expected to take office later in 2019. It reviews the best evidence on what public policies might help EU countries to achieve inclusive, fair and sustainable health and social care in the future.

The authors, leading scientists nominated by academies across Europe, conclude that the ageing process needs to be transformed – and that the best way to improve life outcomes in old age is to anticipate and tackle them in youth and middle age.


June 2019

The 120 Year Formula: How ageing is now being treated as a disease

Much of the news around the science of life-extension seems futuristic and sensational enough to be taken with a pinch of salt – overblown talk of living for 1,000 years, or cybernetic immortality. But when Sue Armstrong, an Edinburgh-based science author with decades of experience, says that there are drugs already on trial that could slow the process of ageing, it’s worth paying attention. When she talks of increasing the healthspan, rather than the lifespan, of the population, it’s clear she’s describing a serious endeavour.


March 2019

Age UK launch new brain health quiz

Age UK quizTo celebrate Brain Awareness Week, Age UK launched a new quiz asking "Do you think you know how your thinking skills might change as they get older? Give your brain a workout and see how your answers compare to other people's from across the UK". The quiz is based on questions included in our "What Keeps You Sharp?" survey, completed by over 3,000 people. Read more about Age UK's work supporting research into brain health: How our thinking skills change with age; then take the quiz: How well do you know your brain?

Brain Awareness Week is an international initiative to "encourage you to organize an activity in your community to advance public understanding about the brain and the promise of brain research". Other activities throughout the week included a social media campaign from @TheAgeingLab sharing brain health tips, a CPD session with teachers from Extend Exercise about links between physical activity and brain health, and an appearance by Dr Alan Gow at the Glasgow Comedy Festival!

March 2019

Can new activities help an ageing brain?

Can taking up a new activity help our thinking skills as we age?

That’s a key question for researchers interested in cognitive ageing, the field that explores how thinking skills change over the life course, and what factors might be associated with those changes.

The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt University’s Department of Psychology have made it their mission to find out how new activities could affect our thinking skills as we age.


February 2019

Life of Brain

We are living longer and, for many of us, changes in the way we think, process information and remember things, are becoming a major concern as we get older. People who retain their thinking skills are likely to stay healthier for longer, so identifying the lifestyle choices that benefit brain health has never been more important.


January 2019

New activity?

Participant recruitment posterCan 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 2019

You can read recent updates in the News section.