PBA was part of the research team that developed guidance on how the design of streets and neighbourhoods can make a difference to older people’s wellbeing and quality of life.
The surveys of over 770 people aged 65+ across Britain, using innovative research concepts and methods, showed the importance of the outdoor environment in people’s lives. Older people go out into their local neighbourhood very frequently, regardless of season, and walking is very much the predominant form of transport. The three major reasons given for going out are: socialising, getting physical exercise and fresh air and contact with nature.
Analysis showed that pleasantness and safety of open spaces, and the distance to them, were significantly associated with participants’ satisfaction with life. A neighbourhood environment that makes it easy and enjoyable to go outdoors was a significant factor in whether participants attained recommended levels of physical activity through walking (regardless of any sensory or mobility impairment) and was a significant predictor of their health in general.
Findings on urban form and design showed that participants went out in their local area more frequently if the neighbourhood had either a fine grain mix of uses or was mainly residential. Participants’ evaluation of their quality of life was higher in residential than in mixed-use neighbourhoods, with more positive perceptions of safety, air quality, and trustworthiness of neighbours. People in these areas also reported better health.