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Move the Neighborhood!: Investigating older adults’  movement patterns, physical activity and sedentary behavior in a community-based participatory public open space intervention to promote active living


 The worldwide population of older adults (60+) is expected to double from 11% in 2006 to 22% by 2050. By this time, there will be more older adults than children in the population and local governments will be challenged to provide services to all in need of them. With the increase in older adults worldwide there has also been an increased interest in enabling people to age-in-place. The World Health Organization has supported a program of age-friendly communities to increase capacity for aging in place. Aging-in-place is a term typically defined as “remaining living in the community, with some level of independence, rather than in residential care”. 4 out of 5 people (age 50+) state that they want to age-in-place as long as possible, and several factors seem to affect one’s ability to do so. One factor that might support aging-in-place is public open green spaces, like community gardens, parks and play areas. Public open spaces provide opportunities for a number of different physical and social activities, and are easier and more attractive to use – particularly for an ageing population – as they are within short distance of peoples’ homes.

A limited amount of research has examined the effect of changing public open spaces on active living in older adults. Move the Neighborhood! is a community-based intervention study co-designed in an interdisciplinary collaboration with community members to develop urban installations highly tailored to promote active living among seniors (>60-years-old) in a deprived neighborhood in Copenhagen. The interventions will be developed, designed and implemented in collaboration with local seniors using different co-design tools and methods. My PhD project focuses on the evaluation of the effect of the interventions on seniors use of the new-built urban installations using accelerometers in combination with GPS as well as systematic observation using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) and CPAT, which is a tool used to audit green spaces. A process evaluation with focus groups consisting of the various stakeholders in the two sub-studies will be used to gain knowledge of the intervention processes.

This study presents new approaches in the field of public open space interventions through interdisciplinary collaboration, participatory co-design approach and combination of measurements. Using both effect and process evaluations the study will provide unique insights in the role and importance of the interdisciplinary collaboration, participatory processes, and tailoring changes in public open space to local needs and wishes. These results can be used to guide urban renewal projects in deprived neighborhoods in the future.

 Contact information
Tanja Bettina Schmidt -
Ph.d. student, Department of Sports Science & Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark.