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Title: Playful public places for later life : how can neighbourhood public open space provide opportunities for improving older people's quality of life by enabling play?
Author: Spencer, B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 7769
Awarding Body: University of the West of England, Bristol
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2013
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This research explores the qualities of public open spaces that make them suitable or not for enabling play by older people. The potential benefits to older people in terms of quality of life are related to the nature of play by adults, identifying the shared themes of autonomy, control and enjoyment. This forms a starting point for the investigation of older people’s own definition and experience of play and enjoyment in public open spaces. No previous research has explored this theme. The concept of affordances is used to analyse and explain how the qualities of public open space can relate to the varied interests, experiences and abilities of older people. Affordances are situated within a broader socio-ecological model of the relationship between people and the environment. This leads to an understanding of affordances that goes beyond the purely functional to include the social and emotional. Mixed qualitative methods were used with people over 65, including focus groups, walking interviews and participant photographs. This research found that while the term ‘play’ is not one that older people generally use about their own activities in public open space, there is a desire for, and valuing of, experiences that can be understood as play. The need for safety and comfort, especially through the provision of toilets and seating, was emphasized as important in creating a ‘safe-frame’ for the enjoyable use of public space. Participants also highlighted the importance of ‘soft’ interventions in public space: temporary events and activities, such as music. Alongside being with friends and relatives, especially their children and grandchildren, these provided the signs, or excuses, to behave playfully. Older people were found to value the social possibilities and positive affect offered by play in public open spaces in an urban setting, but within a framework of rules which were not transgressed. This framework was made by having social contact and by elements in the environment that triggered humour and engagement, particularly watching other people playing, elements of challenge and surprise. This research has provided an innovative means of understanding the potential of public open spaces for older people that goes beyond more traditional concepts of access and support. It concludes that public open space can provide stimulating and engaging opportunities for improving older people’s quality of life through enabling playful experiences, and suggests a number of ways this research can be taken forward.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: UWE
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available