Ageing communities. Illustration by Luke Leung
Ageing communities present a variety of challenges; social exclusion, inadequate access, and isolation. Thus, new urban spaces must be designed with the resolve of these issues of paramount importance.
However, how components of the urban realm are planned is typically based on the perspective of the average healthy individual. For instance, the British government claims that 10 minutes is a practical amount of time to walk to infrastructure and amenities, based on the minutes it requires young individuals to commute 800 metres by foot (Burton & Mitchell, 2006). Whereas, the average person aged 70 and above generally needs around 10 to 20 minutes to walk 400 to 500 metres and often cannot walk for more than 10 minutes without resting (ibid, 2006).
Practical walking distance time. Illustration by Luke Leung
Therefore, it is critical to consider the needs and obstacles of diverse audiences when designing cities, neighbourhoods, or even streets. Each detailed element – such as paving materials, dropped kerbs and pleasantness environments – should be considered during the design implementation stage (CIHT, 2015).
Design elements. Illustration by Luke Leung
What are some of the steps to providing age-friendly spaces?
Based on Peace’s research (1982), older adults are greater inclined to access local services such as grocery stores or health centres that are near their residence. To accommodate this need for proximity, the concept of the 15-minute neighbourhood (which is featured in Graeme’s blog) could be a useful concept to employ, providing for the coverage of all amenities within each neighbourhood. However, it is important to remember that one must think about the requirements of the average senior citizen, and not those of the average healthy adult.
Neighbourhood services. Illustration by Luke Leung
On a smaller scale, the lack of essential public facilities (public restrooms, seating etc.) may seemingly be insignificant to the average healthy adult. Yet, are critical for the experiences of the elderly using public spaces (Lavery et al., 1996., Yücel, 2019). Many older people have chosen to not travel to new locations because of the lack of these facilities, illustrating a crucial factor of just how important they are. Additionally, older adults could also be fearful of not finding their way around unexplored territory. Resulting in reduced willingness to investigate unknown areas. Hence, the importance of designer’s expertise to help create an imageable and psychological place as could be experienced with Kevin Lynch’s book, ‘The Image of the City’ (Lynch, 2014).
Kevin Lynch’s five elements (Lynch, 2014). Illustration by Luke Leung
Age friendly sensory perception
The playful ‘Bedminster Toilet Map’ is an example that symbolises just one way we can enable age-friendly spaces (Sieling, 2017). In addition to this, it is critical to make public places accessible as obstacles such as irregular or steep paths, or bad lighting frequently impede older individuals with mobility, hearing or vision impairments from safely and comfortably using public spaces (Lavery et al., 1996). Whereby, good recognisable elements are key to creating an place attachment, as Gibson (1966) suggests: visual, auditory, taste-smell, haptic, and basic-orientation.
‘Bedminster Toilet Map’ (Tess-sieling, 2017)
In conclusion, it is a prerequisite to age-friendly spaces to not only include essential public facilities in public space, but also to make these enforce the location of such as spaces. Accessibility and locality are main contribute to a sensory perception and place attachment especially for ageing communities.
Burton, E. & Mitchell, L. (2006) Inclusive Urban Design: streets for life. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd, pp.49-115.
CIHT (2015) Planning for Walking. London: Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation. Available at: https://www.ciht.org.uk/media/4465/planning_for_walking_-_long_-_april_2015.pdf (Accessed: 3rd April 2022).
Gibson, J. (1966) The senses considered as perceptual systems. Oxford, England: Houghton Mifflin
Lavery, I., Davey, S., Woodside, A. and Ewart, K. (1996) The vital role of street designand management in reducing barriers to older people’s mobility. Landscape and Urban Planning, 35 (2–3), pp.181–192.
Lynch, L. (2014) The Image of the City. Boston: Birkhauser.
Peace, S. (1982). ‘The activity patterns of elderly people in Swansea, South Wales, and South-East England’ in Warnes, A. (ed.) Geographical Perspectives on the Elderly. Chichester: John Wiley, pp.281–301.
Sieling, T. (2017) The Toilet Map of Bedminster. Bedminster: Minuteman Press. Available at: https://bristolageingbetter.org.uk/userfiles/files/bedminster%20toilet%20map.pdf.
Tess-sieling. (2017) ‘Bedminster Toilet Map’. Minuteman Press. Available at: https://bs3community.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/bedminster-toilet-map.pdf (Accessed: 10th April 2022)
Yücel, G. (2019) Street furniture and amenities: Designing the user-oriented urban landscape. In M. Özyavuz, Advances in Landscape Architecture. Available at: https://www.intechopen.com/books/advances-in-landscape-architecture/street-furniture-and-amenities-designing-the-user-oriented-urban-landscape (Accessed: 3rd April 2022).