Professor Pazit Levinger is an Allied Health researcher (Accredited Exercise Physiologist) from the National Ageing Research Institute in Melbourne Australia. She has over 15 years experience, skills and expertise in active ageing, physical activity and falls prevention, quantitative gait analysis and clinical biomechanics with the focus on people with osteoarthritis. Prof Levinger’s research focuses on research translation and she leads several projects in the community to improve older people health and wellbeing through change in the built environment and physical activity promotion intervention for older people.
Age-friendly outdoor spaces to promote physical activity and social connectedness for older people: reports from the ENJOY projects in Australia
Pazit Levinger, National Ageing Research Institute, Australia
Physical activity in the outdoors offers many health benefits as well as being an inexpensive method for people to maintain their health. The built environment including parks, outdoor exercise equipment and leisure spaces can promote community engagement in physical activity and social interactions. Many of these outdoor spaces are built and managed by local governments, which highlights the important role local governments have on community’s well being and health. The design of outdoor spaces can influence accessibility, inclusiveness and engagement of community members particularly older people, where age-friendly concept can facilitate greater engagement.
In 2018 we commenced an active-aging partnership project (The ENJOY project: Exercise interveNtion outdoor proJect in the cOmmunitY) in Melbourne, Australia, to create age-friendly outdoor spaces for older people to be physically active in the community. This partnership involved the installation of specialised outdoor exercise equipment (the Seniors Exercise Park) and the delivery of physical and social activity program for older people (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaYuCMtnlYk). Participation in the Seniors Exercise Park physical and social activity program resulted in health and physical benefits, sustained engagement in physical activity with enjoyment and enhanced socialisation. These outcomes have led to further collaborative project with local governments and the establishments of several new age-friendly sites in Victoria, Australia (ENJOY MAP for HEALTH).
This presentation will overview the results of the ENJOY project including the health benefits gained as well as exercise park usage, adherence, and participants’ feedback. The presentation will also cover the collaborative process and approach utilise to engage local governments and community, and the various activities taking place to promote and build capacity and knowledge in the community. The challenges and the lessons learnt to inform future strategies for implementation will also be discussed.
In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown and restrictions, outdoor spaces became an essential part for our wellbeing. It is therefore important to design spaces that are inclusive, age friendly that enable people of all ages to exercise, relax and connect. Our work with the community and local governments can provide useful and practical information to better inform public health design around the built environment to positively impact on older people’s health.