Parks for an Aging Population: Needs and Preferences of Low-Income Seniors in Los Angeles

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Madeline Brozen, Lin Chen & Lené Levy-Storms

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Loukaitou-Sideris, A. , Brozen, M. , Chen, L. & Levy-Storms, L. (1). Parks for an Aging Population: Needs and Preferences of Low-Income Seniors in Los Angeles. Journal of the American Planning Association, 82(3), 236–251.

Park Design , Parks , Seniors

Problem, research strategy, and findings: Parks provide important physiological and psychological benefi ts to seniors, improving their quality of life; they are particularly important for low-income, inner-city seniors who lack access to open and green space. However, seniors do not often use parks partly because park design and programming are not responsive to their diverse needs and values. To identify what low-income, inner-city seniors seek and value in neighborhood parks, and to provide guidance to planners on how to better design senior-friendly parks, we conducted a literature review and held focus groups with 39 low-income, ethnically diverse seniors in an inner-city neighborhood in Los Angeles (CA). We asked these seniors about their preferences as well as the challenges and barriers they encounter in using neighborhood parks. Seniors report many impediments to park use; they are not provided appropriate programming that allows opportunities for socializing, safety, and security within the park and along access routes; opportunities for exercise and walking; and aesthetic and natural elements that provide contact with nature.Takeaway for practice: Park planners and designers should seek to incorporate senior voices in park design and programming in four ways by developing appropriate programming sensitive to diverse needs, accommodating the desire for �seniors-only� parks, promoting security and safety in the park and along access routes, and offering open and green space. We also fi nd the need for additional research on seniors from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Main finding
The focus groups identified the following priorities: safety/security (crime, falls, traffic, psychological security), contact with nature (“softscapes" over “hardscapes”, adequate shade, water elements, wildlife, gardening opportunities), age-friendly/ergonomic design (seating, pavement, lighting levels, universally accessible facilities), accessibility (barrier-free, ADA-accessible sidewalks and paths, proximate transit stops, handicapped parking, wayfinding signage, physical activity (walking loops and paths, low-impact exercise equipment away from heavy-traffi c park areas, organized physical activity and gardening opportunities) and social support (facilitate interaction, neighborhood events at the park, information exchange).

Description of method used in the article
Participants (n=39) were recruited for the study and participated in focus groups of six to nine participants that lasted 1.5 to 2 hours. The focus groups were conducted in Korean(1), Spanish(1), and English(3). The focus groups followed a predesigned structure and interview guide. All focus group sessions were transcribed and entered into Atlas ti 7.0 software to identify themes and issues.

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Other or N/A
Interviews Meta-analysis
Urban Planning
Physical types
Geographic locations