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Do changes to the local street environment alter behaviour and quality of life of older adults? The ‘DIY Streets’ intervention
  1. Catharine Ward Thompson1,
  2. Angela Curl1,
  3. Peter Aspinall2,
  4. Susana Alves3,
  5. Affonso Zuin4
  1. 1OPENspace Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3Department of Architecture, Okan Üniversitesi, Istanbul, Turkey
  4. 4Federal University of Viçosa, Departamento de Fitotecnia, Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil
  1. Correspondence to Professor Catharine Ward Thompson; c.ward-thompson{at}ed.ac.uk

Abstract

Background The burden of ill-health due to inactivity has recently been highlighted. Better studies on environments that support physical activity are called for, including longitudinal studies of environmental interventions. A programme of residential street improvements in the UK (Sustrans ‘DIY Streets’) allowed a rare opportunity for a prospective, longitudinal study of the effect of such changes on older adults’ activities, health and quality of life.

Methods Pre–post, cross-sectional surveys were carried out in locations across England, Wales and Scotland; participants were aged 65+ living in intervention or comparison streets. A questionnaire covered health and quality of life, frequency of outdoor trips, time outdoors in different activities and a 38-item scale on neighbourhood open space. A cohort study explored changes in self-report activity and well-being postintervention. Activity levels were also measured by accelerometer and accompanying diary records.

Results The cross-sectional surveys showed outdoor activity predicted by having a clean, nuisance-free local park, attractive, barrier-free routes to it and other natural environments nearby. Being able to park one's car outside the house also predicted time outdoors. The environmental changes had an impact on perceptions of street walkability and safety at night, but not on overall activity levels, health or quality of life. Participants’ moderate-to-vigorous activity levels rarely met UK health recommendations.

Conclusions Our study contributes to methodology in a longitudinal, pre–post design and points to factors in the built environment that support active ageing. We include an example of knowledge exchange guidance on age-friendly built environments for policy-makers and planners.

  • Walking
  • Intervention Effectiveness
  • Outdoor Medicine

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

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