Wen, Chen: The elderly in green spaces : understanding, mapping, and planning for nature-based recreation. Hannover : Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität, Diss., 2019, xvii, 118 S. DOI: https://doi.org/10.15488/5159
The demographic structure of many cities in Europe and around the world is characterized by an increasing proportion of elderly people. This poses challenges for landscape planning: it must play greater attention to elderly people and provide opportunities to improve their quality of life through green spaces. Nature-based recreation (NBR) plays an essential role in elderly people’s quality of life. It can improve their physical fitness, mental health, and social contact. Therefore, landscape planning should be expected to respond to population aging by developing urban green spaces so that they can provide these multiple benefits to the elderly.However, elderly people’s needs and preferences have attracted little attention in the planning of urban green spaces. First, with regard to elderly people’s specific preferences for green spaces, existing knowledge is scattered and lacks an interpretation for planning purposes. Few studies have sought to achieve a systematic understanding either of elderly people’s NBR preferences in different types of green spaces, or of the differences between the preferences of elderly groups and young groups. Secondly, it was unclear whether and how NBR opportunities of a city could be spatially assessed in order to create a basis for planning that better takes into account elderly people. Third, despite growing academic attention being paid to issues of environmental justice, the age perspective has not been closely examined, especially in terms of accessibility to urban green spaces.To fill the identified knowledge gaps, this thesis aims to provide a systematic understanding of elderly people’s preferences for NBR, to spatially assess NBR opportunities and demands, and to investigate the equality in access to NBR for elderly people. The thesis is organized by the following research questions. The first question concerns the state of scientific knowledge and asks: (1) What landscape characteristics and green space features are preferred by elderly people? The second and third questions refer to an empirical investigation in the case study of Hannover, Germany. The questions are: (2) What recreation potentials, opportunities, and demands of elderly people for NBR exist in the Hannover urban area? (3) How equitable is the access of the elderly to green spaces at the census block level in Hannover?For the first objective of synthesizing evidence of preferences, a systematic literature review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) approach. This review analyzed 44 peer-reviewed articles in depth that were published between 2000 and 2017. The results were summarized in a framework of factors regarding elderly people’s preferences. The framework consists of four categories: landscape features (e.g. aesthetics, legibility, and cultural heritage), infrastructure and facilities (e.g. trails, recreational facilities, and business settings), maintenance (e.g. cleanliness and security), and accessibility.For the second objective of mapping NBR opportunities, a spatial model was built to understand elderly people at the city scale, based on the ESTIMAP recreation model. The adapted model considers special factors and parameters to better reflect elderly people’s preferences for NBR at the city scale. It assesses NBR opportunities by considering landscape aesthetics, various types of facilities, and proximity. The results of a case study in Hannover revealed that only parts of urban green spaces offer high recreation opportunities for the elderly, even though the city has many urban parks. Places with high opportunities are mainly found near the lake in the southern city and in the urban forests near the northeast, while the high demand is mainly found in a strip of residential areas across the city center.For the third objective of assessing equality of access to urban green spaces, an enhanced “two-step floating catchment area” (2SFCA) approach was developed to measure per capita green area. This enhanced approach considers the attractiveness of green spaces, the actual street network, and crowding issues. It tested two scenarios that represent two mobility levels with respect to elderly people and the general population. The results showed that in the scenario of “moderate mobility” (for elderly people), the per capita value in each census block is less than that in the scenario of “better mobility” (the general population). The “moderate mobility” scenario displayed a more uneven distribution of access across the districts of Hannover. The bivariate correlation analysis showed no evidence that census blocks with a higher percentage of the elderly population suffer from worse access to urban green spaces.This research provided a systematic understanding of elderly people's preferences for NBR and approaches to assessing them spatially. Based on the findings, following planning recommendations were proposed to consider elderly people’s preferences in developing urban green spaces: (1) A spatial assessment of elderly people's preferences can help to create a basis for green space planning. (2) The distribution of urban green spaces should be optimized to fulfill elderly people's demands and to alleviate inequality in access to areas with high recreation opportunities. (3) Facilities and infrastructure are vital to urban green space development. Many green spaces are aesthetically pleasing, and their NBR potential can be better pursued by improving facilities and infrastructure. Future studies are suggested to examine more closely how cultural contexts would affect elderly people’s preferences for NBR and to consider temporal and spatial dynamics of demographic changes in planning green spaces.
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