Dr. Tanja Schmidt is a Post.doc research at the Active Living Research Unit, at the Department of Sports Sciences and Clinical Biomechanics. She completed her PhD in 2019, researching in older adults living in deprived neighborhoods and how the built environment may promote active living/healthy ageing through physical activity and social interaction. Tanja uses primarily mixed methods.
Older adults’ use of neighborhood open spaces following an environmental intervention
Tanja Schmidt, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
Background: Using neighborhood open spaces (NOS) for physical activity and social interaction may be an easy way for older adults to uphold healthy aging.
Purpose: To assess factors promoting or inhibiting older adults’ use of NOS in a deprived neighborhood before and after an environmental intervention.
Methods: Observations using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities were conducted to observe older adults’ use of 13 NOS in spring 2017 (baseline) and spring 2018 (follow- up). Interviews with ten older adults were held in spring 2018 to identify barriers and facilitators for using NOS.
Results: The intervention resulted in the construction of two pavilions and renovated benches, including building raised flower beds and small bench-tables. An increase of 44% more older adults was observed at follow-up using the NOS with the renovated benches. No use of the two pavilions was observed. The interviews identified six important factors for older adults’ use of NOS: weather, support for social caretakers, support for resourceful volunteers, organized activities, social interaction, and sense of ownership.
Conclusions: Social interaction is a key factor for older adults’ use of NOS and should be prioritized by health promoters in combination with age-friendly facilities and organizational support. Daily social interaction may be easier to promote in close distance NOS, whereas NOS further away may rely on organizational support, such as social caretakers and volunteers.
Funding: Study funded by The Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities, Velux Fonden and TrygFonden.