ENLIGHTENme – Horizon 2020

ENLIGHTENme is a four year Horizon 2020 programme (2021-2025) that aims to develop innnovative policies to address the health and well-being of older citizens through indoor and outdoor lighting. Configuring Light is carrying out social research and community engagement to produce lighting installations in three cities.

Visit the ENLIGHTENme project website:         This is a complex programme, with a cast of thousands (22 partners in 12 countries) and a budget of millions (€6million). Unusually for lighting research, it is highly multidisciplinary: at the centre are two work packages, one of which (CL’s) is focused on social and design research, the other is a large-scale science-based intervention guided by chronobiology and health researchers.

The overarching aim is to understand the impact of lighting strategies on the health and well-being outcomes of ageing people in vulnerable districts of three cities: the Wildeman district of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Savenna in Bologna, Italy; and Annelinn in Tartu, Estonia.

Configuring Light has the rare privilege of long-term engagement in comparative research and design interventions. As detailed under the tabs, below, we have three major involvements:

  • Carrying out ethnographic research and co-design workshops as basis for design public lighting installations in each city. These will each last for at least a year, and are designed to allow responsive experimentation;
  • Researching a panel of at least ten households in each city to better understand the practices and problems of older people in their homes in order to develop lighting audit tools and design strategies for more supportive lighting;
  •  Developing a database of resources for researching lighting, ageing and well-being.

Our biggest task was to develop a programme of research, community engagement and co-design in each city, under the banner of Urban Lighting Labs (ULLs). The aim has been to develop a rich social knowledge of how older people use and experience public space in their neighbourhood, contextualised in their wider lives of everyday routines, issues, aspirations and concerns.

The research has been built around a range of ethnographic strategies, based on local conditions, including short and long interviews, observation and visual documentation, walkabouts to understand how people use key spaces and participation in a range of activities and organizations for the elderly. In addition we have worked with a range of ‘experts’ such as care workers, teachers, health workers, librarians and so on.

In addition, we have carried formal and informal workshops that aim to develop a common understanding of light and space, and to test out design ideas.

Out of this research (February 2022-December 2022), we have developed lighting designs for strategic areas in each district. You can look at these designs and their underlying research and social and design rationales under the following links: Amsterdam – Bologna – Tartu.

Once switched on (beginning of June 2023), we will be able to conduct a range of further research activities for the following year, including workshops, surveys and experimentation: the light engines, designed by Neri, allow for tuneable white (2300-4000 K) and dimming programmes so that we can try out a range of lighting scenes. In some cases we have also rolled out different CRI specifications (80-90) to see if the differences are perceived or impactful.

The lighting was designed to be installed for one year as part of the ENLIGHTENme programme. However in each city, the lights have been adopted by the municipality as permanent fixtures, and can be the basis for either extension or further development.

As of February 2023, we are beginning a second research project in each city: we are putting together a panel of 10+ elderly households in each city to work with them to better understand indoor lighting for the elderly. We will be able to set indoor lighting within the broader research on elderly lives developed in the public space research.

We will work with each household across four or more visits:

  • Initial long interview to understand everyday routines and activities in the home, daily temporalities (eating, sleeping, socializing), and issues of cost and resources. During this visit we will also do a complete audit and documentation of all lighting, switches, luminaires, windows and lit devices, at normal levels and in full darkness.
  • Develop an analysis of light-related issues and design ideas for the home, to be discussed with each household, including demonstrations of different lighting arrangements.
  • An accompanied walk on a typical activity such as shopping in order to better understand the relationship between indoor and outdoor lighting, including stairwells, elevators, entranceways.
  • Follow up visits to assess design ideas and how understanding of lighting has developed.

The main outputs from this project will be:

  • a richer, more ethnographic and comparative understanding of how lighting fits into the everyday life of the elderly in different cultures, and design ideas to support their lives with better lighting
  • an audit tool or checklist, with guidelines, for use by professionals in social or health care allowing them to understand better where lighting is inadequate and even dangerous (eg, in relation to falls in the night, wayfinding in the home, cognitive confusion.

This is an entirely new area of work for Configuring Light, and we are really excited to develop it.

We are also developing a database of resources for people researching or working with the elderly in relation to lighting, health and well-being.

This database has been generated by asking members of the ENLIGHTENme consortium to suggest entries based on their disciplines, which included social sciences, design, biological psychology, chronobiology, health research, health economics and more.

Each was asked to contribute 5 of the most important of the following resources in relation to their disciplinary specialism:

  • Projects, designs and best practices
  • Publications (both academic and media, but also policies, standards, guidelines)
  • Organizations that are leading in the field as research, advocacy, activist or professional institutions.

The database will go live at the end of March 2023.