MIT MISTI-Spain Program Brings Barcelona Researchers to AgeLab
by Adam Felts
The AgeLab hosted researchers from Blanquerna - Universitat Ramon Llull, in Barcelona, Spain, as part of an ongoing international research collaboration sponsored by MIT’s MISTI-Spain program. In the summer of 2022, AgeLab researchers visited Spain to visit Dr. Giné-Garriga and her colleagues, as well as engage in a tour of discovery of the urban design of Barcelona.
Dr. Maria Giné-Garriga, professor of Sport Sciences at the Faculty of Psychology, Education and Sport Sciences Blanquerna - Universitat Ramon Llull, and Giuliana Longworth and Jorge Raul Zapata-Restrepo, two doctoral researchers who work with Dr. Giné-Garriga with the Health CASCADE consortium (https://healthcascade.eu/home/), visited the AgeLab to share their research and to explore future collaboration on research related to the aging population, livable communities, and co-creation.
Dr. Giné-Garriga’s recent work focuses on applying the co-creation methodology to design sustainable interventions to improve movement patterns among the older adult population with the final aim of improving physical function and reducing loneliness. She currently leads a work package for the European Commission Research and Innovation Framework Programme (MSCA - International Training Network) entitled Health CASCADE: Evidence-based co-creation methodology for bridging the implementation gap between knowledge and action in health promotion. Mr. Zapata-Restrepo and Ms. Longworth are conducting their doctoral thesis within the Health CASCADE consortium.
Mr. Zapata-Restrepo’s doctoral research centers on understanding how older adults in Barcelona navigate and utilize their public spaces. He and his research colleagues have embedded themselves in a nursing home and with a group of community-dwelling older adults in the Eixampla Dreta neighborhood, seeking to understand how the residents interact with the built environment and specifically nearby recreational areas. The research is built upon a co-creative model, in which the participants play a role in surfacing research questions and guiding the course of the study. The project involves several stakeholders such as experts and organizations in the field of public health, architecture, urban design and social services.
Ms. Longworth’s research explores the foundational aspects of the co-creation methodology, as well as focusing on implementation and evaluation strategies for the co-creation process. Co-creation involves the collaboration of stakeholders to surface question and issues, carry out an investigation, and propose solutions. Co-creation can be contrasted with more linear models of research and policy development in which participants may be only partly or minimally involved. For some problems, co-creation can be a powerful mode of knowledge creation and, as part of the process, evaluation, and implementation science, an extremely important tool.
The collaboration between the AgeLab and the research team from Barcelona opens up possibilities for multinational studies—including comparison studies between participants in Spain and the United States, and how their respective cultures, policies, demographics, and other factors may play a role in the experiences and wellbeing of older adults, caregivers, and aging professionals. During their visit at MIT, Dr. Giné-Garriga, Ms. Longworth and Mr. Zapata lectured and ran a co-creation exercise as part of AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin’s class Global Aging and the Built Environment in DUSP.