Age-Friendly Green Space by Citizen Science

A line of street trees line the roadway.As cities become denser and populations age, quality green space becomes ever more important. In many cities at least a quarter of the population will be over the age of 65 years by 2030. Adelaide in South Australia has one of the oldest populations at 37% over the age of 50. So this is a good place to run a citizen science pilot with older residents. The method involved the use of smart phones to collect data, and the development of audit tools. The participants were encouraged to go about their daily lives so that the data reflected their natural life. While the data were not the main focus of the project, several important design elements emerged. In order of importance they were: seating, street trees, natural bushland, park trees and lakes/river/ocean.

In the summing up the researchers noted that public green spaces in local neighbourhoods may be seen as “green corridors” – a conduit to everyday life rather than destinations in themselves. They conclude that citizen science methods are a good way to implement age-friendly urban design at a detailed level. 

The title of the article is, Using Citizen Science to Explore Neighbourhood Influences on Ageing Well: Pilot Project  

Abstract: Outdoor and indoor environments impact older people’s mobility, independence, quality of life, and ability to “age in place”. Considerable evidence suggests that not only the amount, but also the quality, of public green spaces in the living environment is important. The quality of public green spaces is mostly measured through expert assessments by planners, designers and developers. A disadvantage of this expert-determined approach is that it often does not consider the appraisals or perceptions of residents. Daily experience, often over long periods of time, means older residents have acquired insider knowledge of their neighbourhood, and thus, may be more qualified to assess these spaces, including measuring what makes a valued or quality public green space. The aim of this Australian pilot study on public green spaces for ageing well was to test an innovative citizen science approach to data collection using smart phones. “Senior” citizen scientists trialled the smart phone audit tool over a three-month period, recording and auditing public green spaces in their neighbourhoods. Data collected included geocoded location data, photographs, and qualitative comments along with survey data. While citizen science research is already well established in the natural sciences, it remains underutilised in the social sciences. This paper focuses on the use of citizen science with older participants highlighting the potential for this methodology in the fields of environmental gerontology, urban planning and landscape architecture.