On Construction of Age-friendly Park Under Demographic Change:Case Study from Taiwan, China
李丽雪 / 1964 年生 / 女 / 东海大学景观学系教授、系主任 / 研究方向为生态景观规划设计、生态美学和环境行为
通信作者邮箱（Corresponding author Email）:email@example.com
Lee Leehsueh, was born in 1964, professor, dean of landscape architecture, Tunghai University, her research focuses on ecological landscape planning and design, ecological aesthetic and environmental behavior.
Abstract: Based on the results of questionnaire and field observation of the elderly in the Daan Forest Park and four neighboring parks in Taipei City, the planning and design principles of age-friendly parks were proposed in combination with domestic and foreign literature. Studies have shown that the elderly prefer to visit large parks when they arrive at a similar distance. The proportion of elderly park users is lower than that of the composition of the population structure, possibly because the elderly generally believe that the park facilities are inconsistent and insufficient. The elderly attach great importance to independence and sense of control due to their physical and mental conditions, and the design with good accessibility, safety, legibility and choice can make the park's elderly users enjoy pleasure and the sense of happiness.
Key words: aging in place; parallel facilities; third places
研究基地大安森林公园位于台北市大安区内，面积260 000 m2，日游客量达3000～5000人，假日更可达20000～30000人；其方圆1 km范围内有4个邻里公园：连云公园、民荣公园、金华公园和新龙公园，面积均介于2000 m2～4000 m2，使用人数以假日居多，约100～200人。大安森林公园调查时间为：2015年9月至2016年4月，采用问卷调查；2016年10月、12月及2017年2月，观察五个公园高龄者使用情况。
图 1 高龄友善公园设计思考的四个原则
Figure 1 Four Principles for Design and Thinking of Age-friendly Park (Source: drawn by the author)
Over the past 40 years, the global population is entering the aging stage, and the expanding trend of "population aging" also means that the social spatial conditions of aging are breaking with the past, prompting the urban transformation to construct an age-friendly city . The construction of open space is linked to the issue of aging in place. Allowing the elderly to have free, independent, safe, accessible and convenient park activities in their own communities is one of the conditions for the elderly to maintain a high standard of quality of life in place. The elderly can feel their inner freedom and selflessness when they engage in leisure activities. The health benefits include delaying cognitive decline, improving mental health, life satisfaction and happiness.The World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that the provision of age-friendly park would make the community life of the elderly feel more secure .
With the development of population structure towards aging in Taiwan, China the establishment and promotion of a friendly environment in the elderly is considered to be the core of the population aging policy. At the present stage of park construction, barrier-free design of Yangchun footpath is the main content of providing activities for the elderly, and there is little use planning for leisure and recreation activities for the elderly. The park, which can bring physical and mental satisfaction for the elderly, is an important place for them to relax, and is one of the important elements for success in aging in place. This study summarizes the planning and design principles of the age-friendly park by understanding the current situation and needs of the park for the elderly.
1 Literature Review
Aging in place refers to the ability to live safely, independently and comfortably in one's own home and community regardless of age, income or ability. Many studies have shown that over 90% of the elderly prefer to stay in their communities. On the one hand, the elderly are not only physically and mentally but also socially and culturally amazingly diverse; on the other hand, weak social network resources or subjective loneliness and helplessness and hopelessness are often closely related to the elderly people’s suicidal behaviors. Appropriate exercise and social activities can maintain the physical and mental health of the elderly, improve the psychological isolation and loneliness, and further reduce the risk of death and Alzheimer's disease. Open space is associated with health, safety and life satisfaction of the elderly. Creating an age-friendly environment reflects social equity, dignity, participation and empowerment .
1.1 The Healthy Physiological and Psychological Needs of the Elderly
WHO points out that the age-friendly park is one of the necessary projects for the age-friendly city, and it defines health as "the complete physical and mental state and social well-being". Human aging has obvious biological, psychological and social characteristics, so the demand for open space of the elderly should be considered from these three aspects.
Physiological needs: With the increase of age, the preference of aging in place of the elderly are challenged due to the increase of health risks. The elderly are also often the least active group, which can lead to health problems. Many of the elderly are also at the risk of being quarantined, which can lead to mental health problems. Because of physical and biological changes, elderly people have physical wear and tear, balance, hearing and vision deterioration, accompanied by at least one chronic health problem or disease. Open spaces such as parks have a positive impact on the health of the elderly, which is also related to the well-being and quality of life of the elderly. Studies have shown that frequent trips to outdoor spaces with greenery are good for the health of the elderly, especially those parks with a sense of comfort, safety and beauty.
Psychological needs: Elderly people's demand for open space not only expresses their needs of physical health, but also their needs of psychological and emotional health, as well as their feelings of community safety. The park is designed to give the elderly a sense of choice and control and to satisfy their desire for independence. Also due to physical changes, the park's physical environmental stability helps to improve the site adaptability of the elderly.
Social needs Parks play a role in building the natural community network in the community. The elderly prefer to be with their peers in the park. Good social interaction has a positive impact on the health and life satisfaction of the elderly. A well-designed park is a gathering space around the elderly and may be regarded as third places or bumping places.
1.2 Activity Needs of the Elderly
The aging process is a continuous change. Without appropriate supporting environment, the elderly and the environment will be out of balance. The elder compensate for the increasing physical, psychological, and social limitations of aging by adjusting their environmental needs. However, the environment should also be adjusted to meet the needs of the elderly to meet the purpose of the construction of a age-friendly city.
Exercise or walking is the most common activity of the elderly in the park, and the quality of the access path inside and outside the park is an important factor affecting the willingness of the elderly to use the park. Easily identifiable and accessible entrances also affect the frequency of park use among the elderly. Because of physical limitations, the farther the park is, the less frequently it is used. The diversity of park facilities and group sports activities are preferred by the elderly. The diversity of facilities should take age, sex and physical condition into consideration due to the high physical and psychological heterogeneity of the elderly.
2 The Research and Survey
2.1 The Research Base
The purpose of this study is to understand the use behavior of the elderly in urban parks and neighboring parks. Based on the research results, it is proposed to make parks become a link in the construction of aging in place and active aging of the elderly. Taiwan, China will enter an aging society in 2018. Taipei city's elderly population over 65 years old accounts for 16.87% of the total population, among which 26.42% are in Daan district, which is a super-aged society.
The research base, Daan Forest Park is located in the Daan district of Taipei City, covering an area of 260,000 m2. The daily tourist volume is 3,000~5,000, and on holiday, it can reach 2000~4000. There are 4 neighboring parks within 1 km of the surrounding area: Lianyun Park, Minrong Park, Jinhua Park, and Xinlong Park, each with an area of 200,000~400,000 m2. Most of the users go there on holidays, about 100~200 people. The investigation period of Daan Forest Park was: from September 2015 to April 2016, using questionnaire survey. In October 2016, December 2016 and February 2017, the use of five parks for the elderly was observed.
3 The Research Result
3.1 Duration of Use and Proportion of Users
The proportion of elderly users in Daan Forest Park is slightly less than 10%, and the use time is usually between 5:00 to 8:30 and 15:30 to 18:00. The users of the 4 neighboring parks are mainly parents and children, and the proportion of the elderly users alone or in groups is about 5-10%, and the use time is usually 15:30 to 18:00. In winter, the elderly use time of Daan Forest Park is from 6:00 to 8:30 in the morning, and the use time of 5 parks is from 15:00 to 17:00 in the afternoon. Factors of seasonal weather may affect the use of the park of the elderly. In addition, when most group activities in Daan Forest Park on Sundays stop, the number of elderly users will decrease, but the number of elderly users in the neighboring park will be higher than usual.
People unable to move freely more likely to take part in activities in neighboring parks, and the time is mainly from 7:00 to 8:00 and 15:00 to 17:00. People in wheelchairs with escorts will often go to Daan Forest Park for activities, usually from 15:00 to 17:30 on Monday to Friday, and from 15:00 to 18:00 on Saturday and Sunday. Those accompanied by family members are more likely to take part in activities in neighboring parks, and the time is about 16:00 to 17:00.
3.2 Type and Location of Activities
The elderly users in Daan Forest Park mostly participate in fitness group activities in the morning, and the proportion of individuals is quite high. In the afternoon, people come here individually or in group mostly for fitness, walking, sightseeing, and bird watching, etc. The neighboring parks are mostly static activities, like walking and sitting, etc., and people are often accompanied by neighbors, children or caregivers. Among them, the elderly with mobility problems, such as those in wheelchairs, are more active in the afternoon, mainly sitting around and seldom interacting with others. In Daan Forest Park, most of the activists are accompanied by maids, and those with family are more likely to be active in neighboring parks.
In terms of the activity location of Daan Forest Park, the group activities are mainly on the grass with much tree shade, while the individual activities are mostly on the health footpath, pavilion, fitness facilities area, and ecological poolside. Activities in neighboring parks are often under shaded trees or pavilion.
3.3 Park Facility
The facilities of Daan Forest Park are mainly children's playground, ice rink, basketball court, jogging track, big lawn and music station. Some small squares are mostly moving nodes which are not suitable for group activities. Neighboring parks are mostly children's amusement facilities, a few of them have fitness facilities, and passageway plaza is not suitable for group activities. As a whole, park facilities are mostly planned and designed for children and teenagers. There are seven toilets in Daan Forest Park and no toilets in the neighboring parks. The seats are arranged along the walkway in line, which is not very helpful for social activities.
3.4 Activity Characteristics in the Park for the Elderly
3.4.1 Characteristics of Use Behavior
The distance is the most important factor for the elderly to choose a park, and the distance of 10~15 minutes is the most ideal range for the elderly to choose a park, regardless of how to go there. The elderly, especially women, tend to go to parks in groups.
3.4.2 Characteristics of Individual Participation
Elderly women are more likely to participate in group activities than men. The self-evaluation of the health condition of the elderly who participate in group activities are generally better than those who do not. Costs, lack of interest, and not knowing how to interact with others are the main reasons for not participating in group activities. The elderly with a high school degree or above and good economic status are more likely to participate in group activities. The heterogeneity of the elderly is very large, and the participation rate of leisure activities will decrease with the increase of age. Taiwan, China announced in 2017 that the average life expectancy of Taiwan China's population is 80.4 years old. The survey results of this study show that the proportion of people over 70 years old who use parks is less than 1%, and the frequency of leisure activities is significantly lower than that of other age groups.
3.4.3 Characteristics of Participation
The elderly are mostly engaged in passive activities in the park, which may be related to the fact that the park's substantial environmental content is not friendly to the elderly. The most important facilities for the elderly are lounge seats, shade, smooth pavement (They like cement pavement). Fitness facilities, and various types of warning devices should be provided at appropriate points in the park to alert all users and managers in case of emergency.
4 Conclusions and Suggestions
The construction and management of parks in Taiwan, China is governed by the municipal government of each county. The contents are mainly related to the setting of park facilities and park management. In addition, according to what they call law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Physically and Mentally Disabled and law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Children and Teenagers, there are the principles for the establishment of barrier-free facilities, the design standards for facilities and equipment, the working guidelines for the safety of children's playgrounds, the management norms and the safety standards for equipment. There is no relevant regulation or guarantee for the use of the elderly in the park. The research found that the elderly people’s responses to the project include that: the complex line is easy to get lost, the sign is not clear or incomprehensible, the recreational facilities are inadequate, the service facilities are insufficient and do not meet physiological needs. There is a lack of squares and facilities for social use. And insufficient activity space can not meet the needs of activities. Neighboring parks are generally considered to be poorly designed, lacking athletic facilities and shade. It shows that the park design is obviously insufficient in the needs and suitability of the elderly.
The population data of Taiwan, China in 2018 shows that the proportion of the elderly is higher than that of children. The survey results of this research show that the park facilities are mostly under the consideration of children, teenagers and healthy adults. The report of the American association of landscape architects in 2015 pointed out a similar phenomenon in the construction of neighboring parks in the United States. The study pointed out that although the elderly accounted for 18% of the total population, they only accounted for 4% of the park users. Children accounted for about 20% of the total population, and 38% of the park users . This does not mean that the elderly do not want to use the park, but because most parks tend to be designed for children and young people, the investment allocation of neighboring park construction is obviously not enough for the elderly .
The United Nations Programme for the Elderly proposes the principles of independence, participation, care, self-realization and dignity to increases the direction of national and social policies for the elderly population. In the design of age-friendly park , in addition to carefully considering the natural and social characteristics of the environment, we need to realize that the elderly are a heterogeneous group due to their differences in physical and cognitive abilities and social and cultural characteristics. Therefore, the needs and preferences of the elderly should be identified and addressed in the design. Two studies have pointed out that the accessibility, activity opportunity, safety, beauty and other factors of the park will affect the willingness of users to participate in the park activities . In order to comply with the above proposals and principles, the design of age-friendly park should take the sense of control as the main axis, and consider the four components of the sense of direction and legibility, choice, accessibility, and safety (figure 1).
The sense of control is especially important for the elderly because of their declining physical and cognitive abilities.The sense of control is related to the practice of the five principles of the elderly. If the parks have a good direction and legibility, the elderly can feel the sense of control. This feeling is especially important for the elderly who may have cognitive impairment. A variety of landscapes, facilities and active and passive activities can be seen and participated in, making it meaningful for the elderly to enjoy different options. The fear of tripping or falling, or having to cross busy streets, is a major source of stress for the elderly when using the park. The elder also worry that they may be victims of crime. Therefore, park visibility and safety management are necessary. In addition, the selection of design elements and materials can reduce the risk of falling down in the park. Traffic signs at street junctions around the park, safe sidewalks and crosswalks allow the elderly to enter the park at ease on their own, wander around, use the facilities and feel safe. So the elderly will feel they have a good sense of control. Barrier-free design has both physical and psychological aspects, and the park should have certain spaces or activities designed to welcome the elderly, which is physically and psychologically accessible.
Social support is related to health. Parks can promote interaction and socialization among the elderly and other groups or different age groups. The arrangement of seats is not only to provide rest, but also to provide the possibility of social interaction through configuration or movable seats. The beautiful landscape of the stay space can become a place for people to gather together, and a community information exchange platform. All of these contribute to the construction of social support networks for the elderly.
Walking, physical activity and regular activity have a positive impact on the health of the elderly, and studies have pointed out that park facilities have a positive impact on physical activity . The elderly are more likely to have an overly sedentary lifestyle than other groups due to physical health factors. Physical barriers discourage many of the elderly from engaging in physical activity, however, it may also be due to a lack of adequate mobility and social support. Providing appropriate recreational facilities and trails, the park can encourage physical activity among the elderly. The study also points out that the elderly are embarrassed walking alone in a park or playing sports, so facilities that can promote human interaction are also very important.
Senior playground is on the rise. As we all know, a beautiful and attractive footpath can encourage walking, but it is also important to set up different lengths and levels of difficulty to provide the opportunity for exercise, so as to meet the needs of people with different levels of body and mind, and to give them the opportunity to choose their activities. Compared with the general elderly, the elderly with mobility problems need to strengthen their willingness to exercise and establish physical activity habits. Additionally, by excluding or limiting some certain hazardous activities, parallel facilities with other age groups may be better suited to the physical condition of the elderly than play for all facilities.
Park is an important green space in the city. The natural landscape can improve the emotional state of the elderly, reduce their negative and melancholy thoughts, and promote their mental health. The park provides the elderly with the opportunity to interact with nature and appreciate the seasonal changes. This sensory stimulation should include sight, hearing, touch and smell. Due to the slow pace and short walking distance of the elderly, the spatial configuration of these natural sensory stimuli should be closer than the general design. Also the number of visual changes need to be taken in consideration to avoid visual confusion.
The needs of the elderly for parks are different from those of other age groups due to their physical and mental conditions. In addition, the needs of the elderly for parks are also different due to the differences in gender, culture, income and body. We know from the research that the age-friendly parks are beneficial to the physical and mental health and the improvement of social alienation of the elderly. However, the design challenge is whether the park environment is really suitable for these heterogeneous elderly. Participatory design is particularly important to make the park a safe haven for the elderly.
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