Going outdoors is essential for maintaining health and wellbeing into later life, but many older people find it becomes less easy, enjoyable, and meaningful as they age. The Mobility, Mood and Place (MMP) UK research project has been exploring how places can be designed collaboratively to improve older people’s experience of pedestrian mobility. Drawing on the participation of over 900 people aged 60+, our findings have implications for the way we design for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. The research findings identified:
· Older people walking between different types of urban environments show changes in their emotional response to place based on brain activity patterns. Green spaces seem to be restorative. Even a short walk can have a potentially beneficial effect on mood and brain activity if the environment is sufficiently varied. Things like color and wildlife, opportunities for social contact, and familiar places, especially those linked to key memories, can lift the mood; improved mood, in turn, is likely to make older people get out and about.
· Three qualities of places really matter: access to nature, access to other people, and access to light. Everyday design elements - such as street lighting, pavement quality, and benches - can make all the difference as we get older. The mundane matters and the commonplace counts!
· Features of the environment - such as the availability of public parks - can have lifelong positive associations with successful ageing, and in particular with better cognitive health in later life.
You can find out more about the research here.
Partners: Universities of Edinburgh, Heriot Watt, King’s College and York.