Charles Sturt University (CSU) researchers received funding from the Department of Family and Community Services, NSW government, as part of their Liveable Communities project to develop a new spatial planning tool to help locals councils better plan for urban parks that meet the specific needs of older people. Researchers at CSU’s Institute of Land, Water and Society (ILWS) are working with AlburyCity as partners on this project.
Population ageing is one of the most important social and policy issues we are facing today. In Australia, the population has been on an ageing trajectory for over the past century and population ageing is well advanced. As the baby boomers move beyond the age of 65 years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics projects that the numbers aged over 65 years will increase by 84.8% from 3.1 million in 2011 to 5.7 million in 2013 (ABS 2013). In addition, the proportions of those aged over 65 years will also increase. In 2011, those aged over 65 years made up 13.8 percent of the total population and this is expected to increase to 18.7 percent by 2031 (ABS 2013).
The increase in the numbers of older people presents a significant policy and planning issue for the provision of health, aged care, housing and infrastructure and social and recreational services. This is a challenge for all levels of government, including local government. Research shows that access to well-planned parks as safe sites for leisure, engagement with nature and community activities will improve older people’s health and well-being by supporting two key components of healthy ageing – physical activity and social connections (Maas et al. 2006). The World Health Organisation (2007) states that accessible urban parks are an important age-friendly feature and a survey by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute found that lack of parks and poorly designed or equipped parks are a barrier to access for older people (Judd et al. 2010).
We are designing a spatial tool to be used by councils to plan and develop urban parks targeted to the needs of older people. The tool can also be used for strategic planning of urban parks. A prototype tool is being developed together with AlburyCity.
Photo credits: Alexandra Knight and Catherine Conroy