Healthy urban waters: How photovoice can facilitate participatory urban blue space development processes.

For the attention of: Urban policymakers, planners and designers; landscape architects

The problem: Urban surface waters (‘urban blue spaces’) provide multiple health benefits for cities. The provision of blue spaces might be particularly beneficial for elderly people, who increasingly form a majority of urban populations due to demographic transition. However, the varying needs and interests of elderly people place different demands on the planning and design of blue spaces. As elderly people are often overlooked in urban development processes, methods appropriate to record their blue space experiences are needed to provide inclusive and age-friendly urban blue spaces across cities.

What we did and why: We conducted a participatory study with senior citizens in Ahmedabad, India. We explored the relationship between older adult’s and urban blue space-health relationship. We wanted to test the applicability of a methodology using ‘photovoice’ for healthy blue space research. Photovoice puts cameras in the hands of people and encourages them to explore and share everyday experiences from their own perspective. One of our aims was to gain insight into underlying mechanisms that could be important in guiding urban policy and planning. Foie example; which landscape elements and characteristics of blue spaces promote health and age-friendliness.

What our study adds: Our study supports understanding about:
• Linkages between urban waters, health and wellbeing, particularly considering certain population groups (elderly people) and how to record demand factors of blue spaces,
• Requirements for providing and designing age-friendly and health-enabling urban blue spaces.

Implications for city policy and practice: We want to highlight four main practical implications to consider in urban policy and design:
• Integrating public health considerations into urban blue space planning and design is crucial; however needs and impact assessments involving various population groups are needed.
• Urban blue spaces can contribute to healthy ageing in cities; however, sensitive and participatory planning is needed as needs and design requirements change during the course of ageing.
• The diverse experiences of age and ageing place contrasting demands on urban blue space planning and design.
• Photovoice is a tool appropriate and useful in facilitating participatory urban blue space planning.

For further information: This study is part of a graduate school which is located at Center for Development Research, ZEF, Germany. On our site, you find a poster and picture exhibition related to this study.

Full research article: Photovoice for enhanced healthy blue space research: an example of use from urban India. Anna Brückner, Timo Falkenberg, Urvashi Kasturirangan & Thomas Kistemann.