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Older adults prefer green spaces with landscape features that are natural, aesthetic, comprehensible, and diverse, with accessible and well-maintained infrastructure and facilities

Wen C, Albert C, Von Haaren C. The elderly in green spaces: Exploring requirements and preferences concerning nature-based recreation. Sustainable Cities and Society. 2018; 38(1): 582-593.

Review question

      What landscape characteristics do older adults prefer and how can we improve the planning of green spaces to accommodate them? 


      Nature-based recreation plays a critical role in improving the well-being of older adults. By interacting with green spaces on a daily basis, older adults can garner physical and mental health benefits, pleasure, and active social contacts.

      This review aims to synthesize what is known about older adults’ preferences, namely, how they interact with green spaces, what landscape characteristics they prefer, and how practitioners can improve planning to better meet older adults’ needs.

How the review was done

      Review authors searched two databases (Web of Science and Scopus) using terms such as elderly people, green spaces, recreation, and landscape characteristics. The search was conducted in December 2015 and September 2017, and the time frame of publication was set between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2017.

      A total of 626 peer-reviewed studies were identified in the searches, and 44 were included in the review after assessing their eligibility. 

      This work was supported by the China Scholarship Council. The authors declared no conflict of interest.

What the researchers found

      The review revealed that studies focused primarily on older adults’ recreational activities in urban parks.

      Older adults seem to have common preferences: landscape features that are natural, aesthetic, comprehensible, and diverse, with accessible and well-maintained infrastructure and facilities.

      Studies revealed that preferences regarding green spaces may differ depending on the setting. In neighborhood settings, older adults were more sensitive to connectivity, air quality, and noise levels. For older adults living in institutional settings, they were more sensitive to landscapes which change with seasons, open views, and suitable shades. In parks, older adults were more concerned with safety, naturalness and aesthetics.


      This review revealed the current state of knowledge on these preferences, notably: where and how older adults have nature-based recreation, what basic needs they want to be fulfilled, and what landscape characteristics they prefer.

      Landscape planners can better fulfill older adults’ needs for nature-based recreation by learning about their preferences.

      Landscape planners should also consider both scientific evidence and local conditions that can affect older adults’ preferences, and explore the degree to which design options may fulfill these preferences.

      Further research is needed to explore differences in preferences between urban and rural dwellers, to quantify preferences, and to enhance understanding of older adults’ emotional ties with nature.

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