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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Older People's Use of Unfamiliar Space

Grant reference: RES-352-25-0003

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Presentation/lecture details

Older people's use of unfamiliar space : implications for urban design and spatial policy
The focus on older people and their participation in the planning process is not routinely factored into the work of spatial planners. Planning literature includes little on older people's use of space and their access to influencing planning policy and practice. Considering 'age' in planning decision making and policy is a relatively recent phenomenon and generally subsumed under an 'inclusive' design label. The limited areas in which explicit planning guidelines have been developed are reflected through two themes: first, designing environments for activity and health – guidelines for designing inclusive public spaces which encourage activity, sociability and well-being such as the UK governments focus is on active, sociable living spaces. Secondly, planning for older people and inclusion - guidelines ensuring that the interests and capacities of older people are reflected in the design of public spaces (Lifetime homes: Lifetime neighbourhoods) and spaces with a special significance for older people (a feature of sustainable communities) as well as social exclusion The diversity of the older population justifies the claim that there can be no well-defined boundary to older people's spatial experience. One of the concentrations in the planning literature has been issue or problem based for example, designing for initiatives to combat problem drinking or youth crime in certain areas. In relation to older people one such issue has been to focus on mobility needs. However increasingly there is a need to view older people and their needs in a variety of different ways, particularly as older people travel as tourists and are increasingly major consumers visiting retail outlets and town centres. The research reported in this paper explores older people's use of space, particularly comparing 'unfamiliar' with 'familiar' space. The importance of looking at 'unfamiliar' space comes from a number of aspects. Increasingly older people are experiencing unfamiliar environments either through travelling the world as tourists or for some through cognitive decline when the familiar becomes unfamiliar. The research on older people's use of space however has concentrated on the indoor environment of care homes or one's own home. As our urban landscape goes through regeneration and change there is an increasing need to look at the outdoor built as well as natural environment to assess how they meet the needs of an increasing older population. Many urban environments will become unfamiliar and unrecognisable through such changes. This enables us to highlight particular challenges for planners in addressing the needs of an older population within an inclusive design framework.

Primary contributor

Creator Judith Phillips

Additional contributors

Organiser N/A International Federation on Ageing
Contributor Judith Phillips


planning; place; elderly

Additional details

04 May 2010
Melbourne, Australia


Melbourne IFA (2.4.10).ppt (.ppt / 9242kb)