Why US Communities Should Be Designing Parks For Older Adults


Published:

As America grays, healthy aging becomes essential. Physical activity or exercise is an important piece of this. Getting regular exercise of just 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week has been linked to a reduction in heart disease, cancer, falls and cognitive impairment due to dementia, including Alzheimer-type dementia.

The physical environment of where a person lives has been shown to influence how much physical activity they get. This is especially important for the rising number of older people in the U.S.

Parks are an important public health resource in our country, connecting Americans to nature, providing access to physical activity opportunities, and serving as a safe space for making social connections. With the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, national parks received a great deal of attention.

While national parks are great assets to our nation, they tend to be located far from most Americans, limiting their day-to-day use. The same is true of state parks. Even though they are more abundant, state parks often require a longer drive than most people can make on a daily basis.

Community parks offer most Americans the opportunity to be active daily, but a study of 75 American cities found that just under 10 percent of total landmass was devoted to city parks.

Despite the many benefits of public parks, few American older adults take advantage of them. In a recent review we conducted of observational studies in parks, the median percentage of older adults in parks was only 5 percent. Our studies in Chicago, Tampa and Honolulu showed that almost all neighborhood parks in these cities had basketball courts, playgrounds, baseball diamonds and other open fields for soccer and other team sports.

An assessment from the Trust for Public Lands found that playgrounds, tennis court and ball grounds accounted for over 60 percent of city park facilities in the U.S., which reflects a bias toward the young.

But with about 15 percent of the population currently being over age 65, we need to rethink how we design parks so that they offer space for older people, too. As the number of seniors is expected to increase to one in four by 2060, I’ll explain why it’s important to keep them in mind.

Parks In China

The lack of older adults in U.S. parks didn’t really strike me until we decided to conduct a similar study in China.

As I walked through the park in an old industrial city called Nanchang, it looked totally different from our American parks. There was a large lake with a stream flowing through the park, numerous bridges, exercise stations and small grottoes where impromptu exercise classes were being held.

The users were different, too. The park was teeming with older adults, with almost no teenagers in sight. As I visited three other parks on that trip, I knew we were about to discover some major differences.

When we analyzed the data from eight city parks and over 70,000 people in Chinese parks, we found over 50 percent of park users were older adults. We also found a study from Taiwan using the same methods that found a similar number of older adults.

In Nanchang, China, parks had walking trails, adult-oriented fitness machines, exercise pavilions and water features. Surprisingly, these parks did not have basketball courts, ball fields, and other teen-centric amenities.

We found that the amenities affect the users. Only 3 percent of the people found in the Chinese parks were teenagers. A recent study conducted in parks in Hong Kong, a city with strong Eastern and Western influences, found exercise equipment along with playgrounds and ball fields. In Hong Kong, about a quarter of the users were older adults.

Parks For Everybody

Boston Common, the oldest city park in the U.S.It is still not clear why older adults seldom use public parks in the U.S. It might be a lack of features that interest them. It might be safety, with numerous teenagers using the park, or it might be transportation, or another issue altogether. This is an important issue for researchers to assess to help more adults be physically active.

So how did parks in the U.S. come to be built this way?

Surprisingly, early parks in the U.S. were built more like Chinese parks. Boston Common, the first city park in America, was opened in 1634 and includes water features, walking paths and landscaping.

In the 1700s and 1800s, dozens of parks were created in major cities across the U.S., including the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and Central Park in New York City. These parks were designed to be pastoral, where nature was present but in a tamed environment.

In the early 1900s, the Progressive movement changed parks to focus more on children’s activities, including playgrounds. We are still feeling these effects today.

As we build our parks of tomorrow, we need to consider all users and construct parks that encourage activity throughout the lifespan. Hopefully, we can design parks with the best of American and Asian influences to create a more active and healthier America.

Dr. Maddock is the Dean of the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University. He is internationally recognized for his research in social ecological approaches to increasing physical activity. He has served as principal investigator on over $18 million in extramural funding and authored over 100 scientific articles.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
Aging In Community: Inside The Senior Cohousing Movement
Healthy Aging Stories

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 16, 2017

The Sagittarius Sun forms a brilliant trine with inventive Uranus first thing this morning. For early birds, the day is filled with promise. Spur of the moment decisions can lead to unexpected delights. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2017

Free admission, 10%-20% discounts! Quality crystals, minerals and jewelry! We have an amazing display of merchandise for your viewing pleasure and purchase. We constantly add new items to our...

Where:
Cape Cod Center for Whole Health
116 State Road
Sagamore Beach, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Down to Earth Crystals and Minerals
Telephone: 508-680-6195
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Diane Lewis, psychic medium, for this very special holiday presentation. Be a part of this exciting evening as Diane connects to spirit, bridging the gap and gently bringing forth messages...

Cost: $40 per person

Where:
Hillcrest Country Club
325 Pleasant Street
Leicester, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Hillcrest Country Club
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Beginning, Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 Clarity. Knowledge. Personal transformation. No matter what you’re looking to find more of, Kabbalah 1 is the first step in your lifelong journey of...

Cost: 8 Weeks, $49.95

Where:
WeWork
31 St. James Ave
Boston, MA  02116
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Telephone: 1.800.522.2252
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Do you find it a challenge to quiet your mind? In Raja Yoga the mind is described as the generator of thought that resides within the soul. It is the one thing we can control in life. We simply...

Cost: Free

Where:
Inner Space Meditation Center & Gallery
1110 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA  02138
View map »


Telephone: 617-547-1110
Website »

More information

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season drain you! Come join us for a holiday healing meditation and Reiki session with Judy and Geri. This session will start off with...

Cost: $25

Where:
Holistic Wellness Center
18 North Meadows Road, Unit 12B
Medfield, MA   02052
View map »


Telephone: 508-359-7400
Website »

More information

Please join us at our monthly meetings, second Wednesday each month in Northboro, MA. Stay inspired and create collaborative professional relationships. A welcoming community working for the...

Where:
First Parish Unitarian Church Hall
40 Church Street
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come join Mary Budrose on October 17, November 14, December 14, from 7-8pm to learn more about the The Budrose Center For Spiritual Growth healing program and experience a chakra balancing...

Where:
Budrose Center for Spiritual Growth (Blossom Healings)
54 Main Street
Topsfield, MA  01983
View map »


Telephone: 978-561-1687
Contact Name: Mary Budrose
Website »

More information

Qigong and tai chi are 2500+ year old healing arts originating in China. These moving meditations offer unique health benefits that western medicine is integrating into treatment plans. By...

Cost: $12-$17 per class

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Ceneter
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
View map »


Sponsor: Cultivating Qi
Telephone: 978-856-8118
Contact Name: Dave Crocker
Website »

More information

Join us in the Northeast Reiki Center classroom in Framingham for a Reiki Circle in the Usui Reiki System of Natural Healing. We are a gathering of Reiki practitioners and others interested in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki — revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher) This one-day class covers the basic principles of...

Cost: $125

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road, Suite B2
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

2 Saturday 10:30AM classes to practice IPT Yoga at Sohum in Westborough, MA Want to practice yoga to relieve pain on the bottom of the foot? Integrated Positional Technique (IPT) for...

Cost: $30 per class prereg; $55 for both; $35 each at the door

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street
Suite 108b (next to hair salon)
Westborough, MA, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: PatLebauYoga
Telephone: 508-393-5581
Contact Name: Pat Lebau
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags