Assessing and developing a walkability index targeted to older Australians in regional cities

(Photo credit: Alexandra Knight)

How easy is it for older people to walk around Australia’s regional and rural cities? This project measures walkability specifically for older people in regional and rural cities, including selecting and validating appropriate factors which contribute to this measure. Mapping and analysing walkability helps councils to better address this important component of liveability, allowing increased access to social and economic life and improved health and wellbeing for older regional and rural Australians.

This project is a collaboration between researchers at Charles Sturt University and council staff at AlburyCity, and is funded by a NSW FACS Liveable Communities grant. The project runs from July 2018-June 2019.

Project updates

About this project

Through this project, we aim to improve walking accessibility (as a component of active transport and exercise) for older people in regional cities in NSW. Walkability is an important component of lieveability and healthy ageing, and has the potential to improve quality of life. Indices exist to measure the walkability of neighbourhoods. However, these are generally developed for metropolitan cities and do not take the unique needs of older people into account. Using the regional city of Albury as a case study, we are developing a walkability index especially for older people, producing a detailed map of the level of walkability throughout the city and rural surrounds.

We are doing this by using existing spatial data, and also by recruiting participants to wear GPS tracking devices over a 2-week period, to directly observe where and when our participants travel, including walking. By linking this information with neighbourhood characteristics, council will be provided with valueable data and insights into the level of walkability and accessibility for older people in different parts of the city. This methodology can be directly applied to any location for councils to use for built environment planning and for targeted place-based interventions in the context of healthy ageing.

We plan to run the first tracking exercises in early Spring 2018. Please contact us if you would like to be involved.

Publications and community engagement

12/7/2018 Walkability project interview featured on FlowFM

Contact

The research team are members of Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS) which combines research strengths in biophysical, social and economic research, with the aim of undertaking “internationally recognised and integrated research in social and environmental sustainability to enhance the livelihoods and lifestyles of people in rural and regional areas”. The researchers on this project belong to the ILWS research group Spatial Research in Environment, Agriculture and Health.

Dr Whitsed is a spatial scientist with a strong track record in spatial modelling and analysis. She has been involved in developing spatial solutions to demographic, health, ecological and agricultural applications. Her current research is focussed on the integration of spatial science with health and wellbeing of regional and rural communities. She was the prinicpal investigator on the Liveable Communities funded Better Parks for People project, which successfully developed a spatial tool aimed at improving urban parks for older people. Email: rwhitsed@csu.edu.au

Dr Horta is a spatial scientist whose current research interests include geospatial analysis applied to health data to improve outcomes for people in non-metropolitan areas. Email: ahorta@csu.edu.au

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