Walk in My Shoes: Do cities work for older adults?

Walk in My Shoes: Do cities work for older adults?

Centre for Hip Health and Mobility researchers, at Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC, are conducting a number of innovative studies to understand how the physical and social environment impacts older adult mobility, social connectedness, independence, and ultimately, their health. The goal is to improve cities for the aging population—prolonging active, independent living.

On May 9th, during Walk in My Shoes: A Neighbourhood Tour, mobility researchers, City of Vancouver planners, and older adults toured a Vancouver West End neighbourhood. As part of the Centre's study, participants identified features that support or inhibit mobility and health. Information from the walk will assist City of Vancouver planners and mobility researchers understand which features help and hinder how older adults move about in their neighbourhood.

The event underscored the importance of community engagement—learning from the knowledge of neighbourhood residents and communicating this information to decision makers. Preliminary findings from the tour suggest that increasing access to washrooms and benches could encourage more use of the streets. Also, improved lighting would help older adults feel safer walking in their neighbourhood at night. The Centre for Hip Health and Mobility is currently working on a report to share results with community partners and interested health organizations.

"Addressing the needs of the aging population is essential for cities worldwide," says Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould, researcher with the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility. "The population of older adults in Vancouver is expected to reach 16 per cent by 2021, and as they live longer lives, it is important to ensure their quality of life and promote physical health—thereby reducing strain on the healthcare system.

Investigators with the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility are internationally recognized experts in mobility, physical activity, and health research. They have secured two prestigious grants amounting to over $2 million to support their research on how urban physical and social environments can foster health and participation of older people: "Walk the Talk" and "Active Streets, Active People".