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Sport and Exercise Sciences: ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership PhD Collaborative Studentship: ‘Optimising Older Adults’ Home Spaces to Support Independence, Activity, Connection and Wellbeing’ in Collaboration with the Bridgend County Borough Council (CBC)

School of Sport and Exercise Sciences

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About the Project

Swansea University, supported by the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales (Wales DTP), invites applications for funded PhD study, available to start in October 2021.

Rationale/Context: healthy ageing is a Welsh Government priority (Strategy for Older People in Wales, 2013) which includes physical activity (PA). Unfortunately, older adults are the least active population (Townsend et al., 2015), resulting in negative consequences for wellbeing, health and social care costs (Office for National Statistics, 2012). BAME older adults are particularly inactive, with elevated Type 2 diabetes incidence (Ige-Elegbede et al., 2019). Thus, this research will specifically seek to incorporate BAME older adults to ensure the relevance of the findings across the population. 

Aim: to enable older adults to live independent, purposeful, fulfilled lives within connected communities by establishing ways in which their home environments can enable PA and enhance wellbeing. 

Objectives: (1) to understand how the geography of older adults’ homes interacts with PA, sedentary behaviour, psychological states, cognition and wellbeing; (2) to monitor older adults’ PA and sedentary behaviour and examine associations with psychological states, wellbeing and cognition; (3) to develop ways to optimise older adults’ home environments to influence PA, wellbeing and independence. 


  • Study 1 will modify HomeSPACE-II for use with older adults. HomeSPACE-II is a self-administered measure for assessing home-based physical environmental factors that influence children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviours (Sheldrick et al., 2020). Older adults will trial the use of HomeSPACE-II and modifications will generate HomeSPACE-III which will be tested in an iterative process until it is acceptable for older adults. 
  • Study 2 will explore interactions between home geography, PA, sedentary behaviour, wellbeing and cognition. Over a longitudinal period, movement sensors will be installed in participants’ homes and they will wear Axivity wrist-mounted and ActivPAl thigh-mounted monitors. Linked to the sensors, these monitors enable continuous, detailed insight into home-based movement. Psychological state, cognitive changes and wellbeing will be assessed alongside these behaviours and HomeSPACE-III will be used to map participants’ home geography. 
  • Study 3 will draw on study 2 outcomes to co-produce, through focus groups with older adults, ways to optimise home environments and behaviours.   


Bridgend CBC and partners will use HomeSPACE-III and research recommendations with hard-to-reach older adults, who are unable or lack the confidence to leave their homes, to increase their home-based physical activity and their wellbeing.

Outcomes have a potential long-term impact as sustainability (e.g., training community members, developing progression pathways) is inbuilt into Super-Agers and Thomas (Bridgend CBC) is the strategic lead for prevention and wellbeing including partnership working between Health, Social Care and the Third Sector and leads on Ageing Well and the Older Person’s Strategy. 


A fully-funded Wales DTP studentship is available to both UK and international (including EU and EEA) students. All applicants will be eligible for a full award consisting of a maintenance stipend and payment of tuition fees at the UK research organisation rate. Applicants must satisfy studentship eligibility requirements. For further details, see the UKRI web site.  

Academic eligibility:

ESRC studentships are highly competitive. Candidates should have an excellent background in the social sciences, holding a first or an upper second class bachelor’s degree; applications from those who hold a relevant research training master’s degree (or have an equivalent background in research training) will also be considered for a ‘+3’ award.


Full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold either a full-time job or a permanent part-time job during the period of their award. Part-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold a full-time job.

How to apply

To apply, please visit our website.

Funding Notes

Studentship awards commence in October 2021 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £15,285 per annum for 2020/21 for full-time students, updated each year) and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, overseas institutional visits and other small grants.

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