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Title: Understanding older people's use of public urban parks : informing future park policy-making in the delivery of an age-friendly city
Author: Palmer, Stephanie Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 5202
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the potential of the public urban park to contribute to addressing the challenges faced by an ageing society. The fundamental role of the environment to contribute to the prolonged health and independence of older people, a shift towards preventative health care, and the human health and well-being benefits to be sought from green space are realised. Through adopting a relational perspective, an emphasis is placed on the complexity of the older population, the need to better understand the older park user, and the requirement for an evidence base to inform the creation of better places to age. The study, therefore, seeks to contribute to an evidence base for future park policy-making and delivery, in the context of the Age-Friendly City movement. In doing so it contributes to a live policy debate. Qualitative and quantitative methods are employed with the focus on Northern Ireland, a rapidly ageing region, and more specifically Belfast, which recently joined the Global Age-Friendly City Network. Using structured unobtrusive participant observations and a park user survey across four sample parks in Belfast, the thesis analyses older people’s (65 years and over) use of and relationship with the urban park. Empirical analysis advances and deepens understanding of the diverse older park user population and their multifaceted park use. Principal Component Analysis identifies four older park user groups based upon the belief that individuals perceive the environment differently. The need for policy and decision-makers to develop the environment through the lens of the user is emphasised; in this case through a diverse ageing lens and user engagement. The policy framework within which the research sits is critically reviewed and reveals limited acknowledgement of the potential of the environment, and the park more specifically, to help address the ageing challenge. Semi-structured interviews with relevant agencies and organisations uncover a limited conceptual understanding of the older park user in practice. Additionally, a weak commitment under the Age-Friendly Belfast agenda to increase park use by older people is exposed. These issues are further explored in their broader context and reveal a number of challenges resulting from a complex and fragmented governance system. The findings, therefore, are relevant to broader debates relating to public policy. The thesis concludes with recommendations for policy and practice, and future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available