A McMaster University study has probed possible ways to make age-friendly cities that can make walking part of aging adult lives. They found that green spaces, benches, and other structural and geographic features can play a large role. Seniors have many known benefits from walking, such as reduced rates of depression and the researchers monitored walking and mobility patterns (frequency, length, duration of trips, etc.) to see what could be done to improve the activity.
The findings suggest that seniors will walk more when they live in downtown, pedestrian-friendly areas located next to certain key areas. The study’s lead calls these spots “destinations that matter”, while everyone else calls them “places seniors like to go regularly”.
The biggest “destinations that matter” were found to be locales such as coffee shops, restaurants, churches, banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other services. A shorter distance to these areas made walking more likely. Other pedestrian-friendly elements like traffic calming features, green spaces with shade and benches, and properly maintained sidewalks, also correlated with increased mobility.
Access to these “destinations that matter” was deemed important not only for encouraging walking but also the benefits of the locations themselves. Coffee shops, the lead describes, are potential hubs for social activity and interaction. With depression from isolation being an ongoing problem among seniors, supporting ways for them to socialize is integral.
The study also makes recommendations for helping build age-friendly cities that can help encourage walking in aging adults. These ideas include more green spaces and benches, making sure traffic lights give seniors enough time to cross, and installing curb cuts (small ramps at intersections) to aid the unsteady.
Balch, E., “Green space, benches, sidewalks needed to create age-friendly cities,” McMaster Daily News web site, September 28, 2016; http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/article/green-space-benches-sidewalks-needed-to-create-age-friendly-cities/, last accessed September 30, 2016.