New research has revealed that good, walkable access to local shops, services and green spaces doubles an older person’s chances of achieving recommended levels of ‘healthy walking’.
The study, from Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors (I'DGO), a consortium comprising the Universities of Edinburgh, Salford and Warwick, is based on work with 4,350 older people across Britain to find out how important getting outdoors is to them, and what barriers they encounter in doing so, day to day. It was launched on Wednesday 17 May at Ending Isolation through Design, a one day conference hosted by Age Scotland, I’DGO and Planning Aid for Scotland in Edinburgh.
The research also found that a well designed neighbourhood improves older people's level and range of activities, generally, and increases their life satisfaction. Good paths, accessible open space and plentiful seats, toilets and greenery, make a huge difference to their ability to get out and about. At home, having one’s own patio, space to socialise, or simply a green view also boosts wellbeing.
Older people are also often frustrated by amenities such as road crossings and public toilets which have been poorly designed, installed or maintained. Features designed to aid inclusion, such as tactile paving and intelligent road crossings, can be inappropriately used and many older people are uninformed of their purpose and how they operate.
Opening the conference Sarah Boyack MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Planning, welcomed the research and called on older people to campaign for better neighbourhood design, saying: “Taking action is vital not just for older people now, but for the greater good of society and for generations coming after.”
Age Scotland’s Doug Anthoney says: “Planners and politicians need to look carefully at this study and act on its findings. That in some of Scotland’s neighbourhoods older people are under virtual house arrest because of poor design is simply unacceptable. Investing in better neighbourhoods now will pay off massively in the long term, with older people more often happy, healthy and independent in their own homes and communities rather than in high costs hospital or residential care.”Find out more about Age Scotland’s campaign to End Isolation