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Nature rich settings and healthy ageing: Older women in urban parks

Lincoln University
Publication Date
  • Healthy Aging
  • Urban Parks
  • Contact With Nature
  • Green Exercise
  • Social Capital
  • Leisure
  • Remeniscence
  • Sense Of Place
  • Age-Friendly Cities
  • Photographic Research
  • Psychology


The trends toward population ageing and urbanization highlight the important influence of urban environments to healthy ageing. The World Health Organization (2007) has identified green space as an important feature of age-friendly cities contributing to active ageing and well-being in later life. Emerging research concerned with the influence of contact with nature provides evidence of the significance of nature rich settings to health and well-being. This research explores the value and meaning of nature rich urban parks to older women, and the influence of park use on healthy ageing. Several methods were employed in this research. Older women from Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand and Boulevard Lake in Thunder Bay, Canada participated in this research. The participants produced photographs to represent the value and meaning of the parks in their lives. These images were supplemented with written descriptions and anecdotes associated with their use of the parks. The photos and written descriptions were then used as a guide during individual interviews. Site surveys provided insight into the features and qualities of the parks. The findings of this research indicate that the parks are valued for their nature rich qualities, opportunities for social contact and healthy activity. A park value that appears to particularly resonate among older women involves the park as a venue for maintaining a connection with the past and supporting a sense of continuity. The nature rich quality of the parks has an overarching influence on the multiple, interrelated park meanings, although the influence of the park as an urban setting is also significant. The meaning of the parks is shaped by their urban location, the highly developed and managed quality of the park settings, the social and temporal dimensions of the parks, and the effect of culture and heritage. A conceptual framework of ???green ageing??? is proposed to describe the influence of nature rich settings on opportunities for optimising social, physical and mental health in later life.

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