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Older People’s Use of Unfamiliar Space (OPUS): overview and findings Judith E. Phillips, Swansea University Nigel S. Walford, Kingston University Ann E.

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Presentation on theme: "Older People’s Use of Unfamiliar Space (OPUS): overview and findings Judith E. Phillips, Swansea University Nigel S. Walford, Kingston University Ann E."— Presentation transcript:

1 Older People’s Use of Unfamiliar Space (OPUS): overview and findings Judith E. Phillips, Swansea University Nigel S. Walford, Kingston University Ann E. Hockey, Anglia Ruskin University Nigel Foreman, Middlesex University Mike Lewis, Swansea University

2 2 Paper Structure  Origins of OPUS Project  What we did  What we found out  What we concluded

3 3 Origins of OPUS Project  What makes places unfamiliar? –Previously familiar places become unfamiliar  External – places changing through regeneration, redevelopment, redesign and reuse.  Internal (personal) – people changing in financial circumstances, in social position and in health. –When new places are experienced  Voluntary – travel within home country and overseas.  Involuntary – residential moves for financial, health or other reasons.

4 4 Origins of OPUS Project  How we adjust to finding our way around new places or familiar places that have changed may not occur at the same speed as the pace of change.  Central aim –To discover used by older people when finding their way around unfamiliar spaces.

5 5 Origins of OPUS Project  Five specific questions –What factors affect someone’s ability to cope in unfamiliar places? –What is extent to which unfamiliar places limit independent living? –What features of places make them worrisome to older people? –Could new technologies assist older people’s navigation? –How are the views of older people taken into account by planners and urban designers?

6 6 Origins of OPUS Project  Knowing about the unfamiliarity of places in relation to older people is important for planners, urban designers, leisure and travel industry, local tourism offices and community support workers  Unfamiliarity can impact upon –Existing residents –Incoming residents –Visitors to an area

7 7 What we did  Four main elements:  Built environment  Navigational tool design  Spatial planning guidance  Implications for policy and practice  Worked with 44 older people from Swansea  There were 18 males and 26 females with very similar average ages (about 70 years).  No significant difference between men and women in relation to cognitive ability or length of residence in Swansea.

8 8 What we did - built environment  Research questionnaire - booklet  Growing older in a familiar place (Swansea) –Local environment –Navigational abilities –Activity level  Visiting familiar and unfamiliar places –Landmarks and orientation –Preparation and companions  Viewing images of familiar places in Swansea in walking and driving scenarios  Physiological response  Unfamiliar town centre (Colchester) –Assessed ‘Walkability’ and ‘Urban Design Quality’ of the physical environment –Physiological response (ECG Holter monitor during viewing of filmed route) –Perceptual response (oral narratives)  Personal experience of an unfamiliar town centre –Walk around town –Meet locals –Meet planners

9 9 What we did - built environment  Interviewed planners in unfamiliar area (Colchester) and other LAs   Colchester, Essex   Chelmsford, Essex   Braintree, Essex   Babergh, Suffolk   Medway, Kent   Plus community development and tourism officers from Colchester   Themes   To what extent are older people's voices heard and taken into account when planning and regenerating areas?   What processes are necessary to engage older people in a meaningful way?   Are specific areas of the town planned with older people in mind? Are there older people spaces and do planners factor age into the design, spatial layout, signage etc?   W hat gives good quality of life in an area? Is this the same for older people?   How can spaces be redesigned to make them more older person friendly? How can we improve the ambience of spaces and the experiences of older people?

10 10 What we did – filmed walk around town  Recorded what was said when viewing filmed walking route including panoramas lasting 31 minutes through unfamiliar town centre and adjacent areas

11 11 What we found out  Participants were divided into two groups based on assessing how well they followed directions in an unfamiliar place: –No difficulty with directions – 9 males (69 yrs) & 14 females (71 yrs). –Required assistance – 9 males (71 yrs) & 12 females (72 yrs).  Group differences –No difficulty:  used landmarks and asked for directions  more “adventurous” travelling to more unfamiliar towns  used different modes of transport and travel arrangements –Difficulty:  stayed in populated areas  relied on street signs –Both groups:  concerned about evening visiting to town centres

12 12 What we found out  Familiar Environments –Signs not used or valued in familiar places –Mental ‘maps’ of places built from physical features and meaning. –Places hold memories, histories and identities that help people to navigate have previously visited places even if they have changed. –What lies beyond people’s immediate view (the hidden ‘unseen’ landscape) forms part of their perception of an area.  Unfamiliar Environments –People visiting unfamiliar areas looked for familiar cues such as chain shops. –Hidden ‘unseen’ landscape more problematic (what is ‘round the corner?’)

13 13 What we found out - ‘Real’ Colchester  Unfamiliar Environments –Assumption that taken for granted ‘rules’ apply  Priority given to traffic over pedestrians, safe places to cross.  Shared space is often not segregated  ‘Where you live is taken for granted’ –Signs of limited use for pedestrians  often too high, not well positioned and no indication of distance or time.  ‘You could be driving for hours looking for a toilet and you would have no chance of reading those signs’ –Landmarks were important navigational aids but people had difficulty keeping them in view  Looking up at landmarks ran the risk of walking into lower level obstacles (broken pavements, advertising swing signs and other street furniture).

14 14 What we found out - ‘Real’ Colchester  Too much information can produce negative response to places.  Was there anything that surprised you? –‘I think the first thing is the noise. When you come out of the station it was quite noisy and walk up past all the buses and all that way, it was very busy. It looked on the film a quiet town but when you actually come into that area and there are buses coming from everywhere….buses seem to have priority’.  Sensory information can be transitory or temporary.

15 15   Was there anything that surprised you? –‘I had a feeling when we first left the station that this is pretty bleak and all the time we walked upwards especially at QD with all those buses, we didn’t want to come here again, … but, on the other hand, there were loads of seats for people to sit on’. What we found out - ‘Real’ Colchester

16 16 What we found out - ‘Real’ Colchester  Barriers to navigation and walking  Was there anything that surprised you? –‘I noticed particularly the seats, tables, sticking out in the pavement, making it so narrow to get by their swinging sign, so any blind person would be lucky if they hit those studs. They are more likely to walk straight into the tables or that swinging sign’. –‘Its interesting to look up but you can't when you’ve got all this furniture and you have to be watching where you are walking … If you start by looking up at all this beautiful decoration on the town hall or looking ahead towards the water tower you could walk into something, there is too much cluttering the pavements that you can’t walk straight.’

17 17 What we found out - l ocal older people  Street furniture and signs –‘I was watching people and they walk on the kerb side which is so much more dangerous for them …’ (Swansea visitor) – ‘There has been an awful lot of problems with street furniture and they say they are going to alter things. They do – but in a couple of months they are back again’. (Colchester resident)  Common issues –‘There are people who get the [mobility] scooter and they go’. (Colchester resident) –It’s the same in Swansea. It’s worse in the supermarkets than on the streets’. (Swansea visitor)

18 18 What we found out – Planner Interviews  Older people are generally not ‘hard to reach’  Not ‘change averse’  Ageing is considered in the inclusion agenda  General issues shared by older people  Additional specific needs  ‘Lifetime neighbourhoods’ – ‘age friendly environments  Different stakeholders  Implications for spatial policy – –Well developed public engagement strategies – –Differentiation of ageing as appropriate – –Control of space – –Mixed communities – –Age friendly spaces

19 19 What we concluded  There are barriers to using landmarks to find your way around unfamiliar places.  The use of previous experience from familiar places may not help in unfamiliar ones.  First, second, third … impressions – these can affect people’s opinions about places.   Key debates in planning: – –Viewing older people as a ‘problem’ group – or as an opportunity. – –Government changes to planning system and the localism agenda – will it deliver more for older people?


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