Our Jerusalem Railway Park study addressed the needs of those aged 55 in disparate communities, with long-term implications for physical and mental health, and community vitality. 

For the attention of: City planners, transportation experts, residents, educators, environmentalists, real estate owners and developers and politicians.

The problem: In a city associated with tension, violence and religion, for those living in proximity to Jerusalem Railway Park, a ‘Rails to Trails’ initiative, can feel like a safe and peaceful bubble. One where users can walk, run, cycle, feel removed from motor traffic, and even imagine that they live in a rural environment. User communities include Arabs and Jews, religious and secular, upper, middle and lower class families, elderly, middle-aged and young.

Yet in this area, physical activity levels meeting the WHO guidelines are especially in low in low to middle socio-economic status communities for adults aged 60 and above

What we did and why: In this study, we sought to understand the perceptions of those 55 and above-aged regarding an environmental change in their neighbourhood. How it frames their lifestyle choices.

We used a mixed-methods approach to understand how residents of seven diverse nearby neighbourhoods were affected by a renewal this long-abandoned. For this work we created an eight-branched conceptual model capturing the main perceptions raised.

What our study adds: Our study of Jerusalem Railway Park contributes to the understanding of bottom-up community engagement in creating new dialogue between public and municipal authorities for changing urban environment for community health. We also found that:

  • Proximity to the Jerusalem Railway Park was reported as helping to preserve or improve physical activity habits and was supported by multidisciplinary ecological dimensions.
  • Self-reported quality of life improvement may help reduce psychological barriers to physical activity and active living in elder ages.

Implications for city policy and practice: In terms of practice, our study showed how citizen ownership and creation of feelings of familiarity among the elderly, and respecting history of the place for all local cultures might, can be used as basis for future physical activity interventions; especially among non-active populations or lower-middle income communities. This is also a case study about bridging diverse communities using the common goal of working towards healthy and safe cities for all.

Full research article: ‘Greening our backyard’- health behavior impacts of the built environment within the overall ecology of active living by Greenshtein, Osnat Keidar, Chariklia Tziraki & David Chinitz. Editor: Marcus Grant.