Negative perceptions of urban outdoor environments such as lack of safety, presence of social incivilities and scant active transport infrastructures are associated with reduced activity and poor health and well-being in the elderly. 

For the attention of: Directors of public health, municipal medical officers and those involved with elderly people and their needs. Care home developers and providers.

The problem: Health and place are related. We also know that a balanced diet, active healthy lifestyles, fresh air, and exposure to green/blue environments do us the world of good. Yet an ongoing disparity in health and longevity between neighbourhoods within cities remains.

Few attempts are made to synthesize research of neighbourhood features as perceived by elderly to affect their health and well-being.

Answers to these questions could be key to reversing the legacy surrounding deprivation in these communities.

What we did: We reviewed a mass of original research from 2010 and 2017 in depth to establish what elderly people think about how their neighbourhood environment affects their health.

As the global ageing population is expanding rapidly, with 25% estimated to be over 65 years of age in 2050, it is important for us as a society to identify factors support health and well-being for this age group. We must recognised the barriers we may need to address, and the factors that can be enhanced to improve overall health and well-being outcomes for our ageing population.

What our study adds: Our review adds a robust evidence base, providing urban environment health and well-being cues for architects, planners and public health providers to consider.

  • Perceived environmental characteristics that facilitate or serve as barriers to the health and well-being of the elderly living in an urban environment need to be taken seriously.
  • Associated perceptions show that both physical features and non-physical domains are inextricably intertwined and appear to influence each other symbiotically.

Implications for city policy and practice: Establishing what the elderly think about their outdoor urban environment regarding its impact on their health has far reaching implications for age-friendly new build community design and regeneration projects.

When environment shortfalls are addressed in the short-term, mobility of the elderly and health and well-being may be improved and drain on health services reduced. City policy and public health stakeholders are urged to collaborate closely with elderly communities to consider equity, accessibility and inclusivity.

Links to other resources and support:

Institute of Health Equity

Planning for the future Healthy Streets at TfL

Place Alliance

Full research article: Urban environment cues for health and well-being in the elderly

Authors: Maria Anna Gardener (@MariannaGarden1) and Fabiano Lemes de Oliveira (@lemes_f)
Editor: Marcus Grant