Physical barriers common in Swedish homes reveals new study involving senior citizens and school pupils.



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Steps up to the front door and nothing to hold onto next to the toilet. These are common problems for those with mobility issues, according to a new Swedish study in which senior citizens, school pupils and researchers investigated the barriers in Swedish homes.

Many people live with functional impairments, particularly as a natural consequence of ageing. Physical environmental barriers in the home can then create problems in everyday life. You may find it difficult to get in or out of your home, to complete everyday tasks in the kitchen or bathroom, to open windows and cupboards or to move freely around the home. But on a national level, there is a lack of knowledge about to what extent various physical environmental barriers can be found in Swedish housing.

During autumn 2021, Swedish school pupils, senior citizens and other individuals worked together with researchers to undertake a mapping of environmental barriers. Using a citizen science approach, the aim was to find out which physical environmental barriers exist in Swedish homes and how common these are. The findings of the study have now been published in a new report (in Swedish only).

Participants downloaded the Housing Experiment app and followed a set of instructions. Being guided around their home, they were asked to measure with a ruler and answer questions, such as whether there is enough turning space in front of appliances in the kitchen. In total, data on 1,181 Swedish homes was collected.

Here are some of the findings:

  • On average, 14 environmental barriers were found in the homes (in total, 33 environmental barriers were investigated). More environmental barriers were found in houses than in apartments.
  • In apartments, the most common barriers were a lack of support bars in the bath/shower or next to the toilet seat (90 percent).
  • In houses, the most common environmental barrier was steps that have to be passed to enter the home (98 percent).
  • Older homes had more environmental obstacles than newer homes.

“Citizen science is simply when researchers and citizens collaborate to conduct research together. It can be of great benefit to researchers who need to collect large data sets with a broad geographical spread. For researchers on their own it can be difficult to access private homes to measure environmental barriers. Involving those who actually live in the homes is a fantastic way to collect this type of data,” commented Martin Bergman, a researcher and project manager at VA (Public & Science), who coordinated the experiment.

The report in Swedish is available to download here.

The scientific leads for the Housing Experiment are Professor Susanne Iwarsson and Associate Professor Marianne Granbom at the Centre for Ageing and Supportive Environments (CASE) at Lund University. The project has been managed by Dr Martin Bergman at VA (Public & Science). More information about VA’s annual mass experiments.

The Housing Experiment is part of the Swedish science festival ForskarFredag, which is part of European Researchers’ Night. The project is funded by the Forte, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, and the European Commission.

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