Dr Ben Spencer

PhD (Urban Design and Gerontology), MA Urban Design

Research Fellow in Built Environment and Healthy Ageing

School of the Built Environment

Ben Spencer


As a Research Fellow in Built Environment and Healthy Ageing, I have a number of complementary roles. I am actively working on Healthy Ageing research projects with colleagues in the School of the Built Environment. In addition I support the recently established Brookes Healthy Ageing and Care Knowledge Exchange and Research Network developing initiatives and capacities. I work with the network across all the University's Faculties, particularly in terms of engagement with communities and research funding. I also teach on undergraduate and postgraduate courses, supervise dissertations and PhD students.

Areas of expertise

  • Urban Design
  • Active travel / sustainable mobility
  • Gerontology
  • Play
  • Community development
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Healthy placemaking

Teaching and supervision


I teach research methods and healthy placemaking across undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Oxford Brookes along with supervising dissertations at both levels.


Since completing my PhD on Playful public places for later life in 2013 and joining Oxford Brookes, I have worked on a number of research projects, these have a focus on active travel, health and community engagement.

October 2017 – December 2019: Research Fellow Healthy Urban Mobility

ESRC Newton Funded project on the relationship between health and mobility in low- and middle-income communities in the UK and Brazil.

  • Mixed-methods research including social survey, biographical interviews, go-alongs by foot, bus and cycle and extensive community engagement.
  • Managing the process of gaining ethical approval from Brookes on behalf of collaborating international universities.
  • Developing appropriate research tools/materials and recruiting a wide range of participants.
  • Conducting in-depth biographical interviews and mobile observations / interviews in the East Oxford area.
  • Integrative analysis of text, image, spatial information, audio and video using CAQDAS software leading to design recommendations.

January 2018 – July 2020: Research Fellow Co-Creation

EU Horizon 2020 funded project bringing together researchers, policymakers, residents and artists in six countries and two continents, to ‘co-create’ understanding about different urban neighbourhoods and to address disadvantage. Qualitative co-created research through a collaborative workshop and stakeholder interviews in Brazil.

May 2019 - July 2020: Research Fellow Co-Creating Age Friendly Environments for Walking and Cycling in and around Oxford

OBU Research Excellence funded project working with a wide range of local stakeholders and residents in Oxford city and surrounding areas to co-create more harmonious environments for walking and cycling through the lens of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Age-Friendly Environments.

October 2013 – September 2016: Researcher cycle BOOM

RTPI Academic Award for Research Excellence winning EPSRC funded Lifelong Health and Well Being - Design for wellbeing research on ageing and mobility in the built environment. Innovative mixed-methods research into the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling for older people including undertaking and analysis of biographical interviews, velo-mobile methods and solicited diaries.



  • Exploring lessons from COVID for the role of the voluntary sector in Integrated Care Systems
  • Impact of a ‘home office’ environment on productivity and work wellbeing in an ageing workforce


slide 1 of 6

Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Member of the British Society of Gerontology.
  • Member of the Academy of Urbanism.


  • The potential of E-bikes for healthy ageing | E-bike summit 2020 November 2020 | Online
  • How can cycling combat loneliness? | Let’s talk about loneliness conference | October 2019 | Kings Centre, Oxford, UK.
  • Cycling beyond your sixties: Older people's experience of cycling in UK cities and impacts on health and wellbeing | Older Road User Conference | Sept 2019 | RAC, London, UK.
  • Older people’s cycling:(E)-bikes, brain power and microadventures | UCL Cycling at teatime series | May 2019 | UCL, London, UK.
  • Older people on E-bikes: Brain power and microadventures | London Bike Show | March 2019 | ExCel, London, UK.
  • Cycling on the margins: suburban cycling in Oxford | Cycle City 2018 | June 2018 | Manchester University, Manchester, UK.
  • Two ‘lenses’ on ageing and inclusive design | Ageing and the City: The Challenge of Inclusive Design - Getting it Right for All Ages (and Why this Matters) | Centre For Research In The Arts, Social Sciences And Humanities (CRASSH) Cambridge University | Cambridge, UK.
  • Understanding transport and mobility inequalities in Oxford | Transport & Health 2018 | March 2018 | Portsmouth, UK.
  • cycle BOOM - Bridging the gap between research and practice? | Cyclenation | November 2017 | Oxford, UK.
  • Learning the lessons of resilient older cyclists | Mobility, Mood and Place conference | October 2016 | Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, UK.
  • Delightful cycling for all? The potential of enhanced sensory experience to encourage cycling | ARCC Feeling good in public spaces dialogue series: Visual spectacle and tactile texture of urban places | Feb 2016 | LDA Design, London, UK.
  • Understanding cycling in later life and the health and wellbeing benefits of velo-mobilitly in age-friendly communities | British Society for Gerontology Annual Conference | July 2015 | Newcastle, UK.
  • Reflections on cycling experience in later life: diaries and discussions | British Society for Gerontology Annual Conference | July 2015 | Newcastle, UK.
  • cycle BOOM so far | UK-Ireland Planning Research Conference | September 2014 | Oxford, UK.
  • Playable Public Spaces for Later Life | Making the City Playable Conference | September 2014 | Bristol, UK.
  • The cycle BOOM Project | Eco2Mobility: Mobility and Social Inclusion workshop | March 2014 | Provinciehuis of the Province of East-Flanders | Ghent, Belgium.
  • Convenor and chair of symposium: Researching Design for Wellbeing: Ageing and mobility in the built environment and presenting Maintaining Momentum - ageing and cycling in Oxford | British Society of Gerontology conference | July 2016 | Stirling, UK.

Further details

  • Established the British Gerontological Society Special Interest Group on Transport and Mobility.
  • Organised and led British Society for Gerontology (BSG) seminar Design for Wellbeing: Innovative research methods for understanding older people’s everyday mobility, April 2015.
  • Organised and chaired the BSG Society Special Interest Group on Transport and Mobility annual meeting and symposium at the Liverpool Annual Conference 2019 and online conference 2020.