Making an urban area friendly for older people doesn’t have to be difficult. If we want to encourage older adults to get out and about it comes down to five key things. Footpaths, Seating, Wayfinding, Toilets and Lighting. These are explained simply in a four page age friendly checklist designed for local government. Each feature has a rationale, the basic requirements, additional enhancements, and what to avoid. The I’DGO research (below) came up with similar results.
Briefly the five key things are:
- Footpaths should be provided on both sides of the street and wide enough for two mobility devices to pass.
- Seating placed at regular intervals and set back from the pedestrian path of travel.
- Wayfinding and street signage should have plain fonts, colour contrast and non-reflective surfaces. Architectural landmarks also provide wayfinding cues.
- Toilets should be sufficient in number, clean, and well maintained. Provide at least on unisex toilet and an accessible path of travel to all toilets.
- Lighting is not just a safety issue. It should be even and without glare and placed to minimise pools or strips of light.
In a similar way, an article in The Conversation highlights 8 things to help people age well and stay active. Footpaths head the list followed by pedestrian networks, slowed traffic, street crossings, accessible public transport, seating, shade and lighting. The article has many links to more detail and the research behind each of the features. It is easy to see that these factors are good for all ages.
The WHO Guide for Age Friendly Cities remains an good resource with more detailed information.
I’DGO – Older people getting outdoors
The Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors (I’DGO) research provides more background to the issues for older people. The I’DGO leaflet covers the same issues in the Age Friendly Checklist. The project was completed in 2012, but you can find the 2 page leaflet with key findings on the legacy website. The bottom line is, if the neighbourhood feels welcoming and safe, older people will walk more and therefor socialise more.