Physical environmental factors influencing older adults’ park use: A qualitative study

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Use of parks is important for the healthy ageing of older adults as it is associated with substantial physical, mental and social health benefits. However, parks are generally underused by older adults, and we know little about which physical environmental factors influence their use of parks. This study aimed to use interviews to qualitatively explore the physical environmental factors of parks that influence older adults’ use of parks. Purposeful convenience sampling was used to recruit 20 older adults (aged 60 years and over) in Belfast, the UK. 15 participated in walking interviews with a Go Pro camera mounted on their chest to record both visual and audio data, and the remaining participants were interviewed at their home with audio recorded only. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using an inductive thematic approach. Eight themes emerged as being important: park accessibility, natural elements, park amenities, sports facilities, maintenance and aesthetics, walking and cycling facilities, safety and slope. Policy wise, it is important to keep parks well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing with a variety of natural or semi-natural elements, such as landscaping, wooded areas. In addition, the presence of certain park amenities (i.e. toilets and benches) and sports facilities (i.e. children playgrounds) were found to play a critical role in supporting and encouraging older adults’ use of parks. Finally, the importance of providing good accessibility to different types of parks (i.e. neighbourhood parks and forest parks) across cities and towns was also highlighted, and the design guidelines for them should be developed contextually. It is vital that physical environmental features of parks are designed to maximize the physical and social health benefits for older adults with varied needs and functional ability for the purpose of promoting health and wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number127353
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
Early online date22 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Go Pro camera
  • Park features
  • Park use
  • Sedentary interviews
  • Walking interviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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