Learning from Older Adults’ Use of Urban Parks in Hong Kong’s Low-income Areas
Spatial justice, specifically accessibility, Universal Design and the fulfilment of human rights for vulnerable groups are increasingly important issues in urban research and city-level agendas concerning public spaces. Although the development of older adult–friendly urban environments is part of the agenda to promote healthy ageing societies, public spaces (e.g., urban parks) often exclude those in the advanced age group in the community. This article aims to clarify the everyday activities of older adults in urban parks by focusing on the extreme case of Sham Shui Po. Sham Shui Po is a low-income, high-density and public space–scarce neighbourhood in Hong Kong, a city characterised by a rapidly ageing population and high socio-spatial inequality. Through on-site observations and notetaking, two small urban parks, namely the Nam Cheong Street Park (NCSA) and Tai Hung Tang Park (THTP), were studied. NCSA, located in a congested vehicular street median, is predominantly for social activities. It forms a part of the daily route of residents and inhabitants from different ethnicities. Unaccompanied older adults, with limited mobilities, regularly use NCSA to navigate the neighbourhood. THTP is a site for older adults to engage in physical activities and also accommodates large groups and caregivers. Defensive architecture and design layout may affect the group size in the parks, while sittable edges may directly contribute to the park use by older adults with physical impairment, particularly near street crossings. The findings from this extreme neighbourhood highlight the critical role of landscape infrastructure for healthy ageing societies.
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