Caterina Villani
Kin Wai Michael Siu
Zi Yang


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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How to Cite
Villani, C., Siu, K. W. M. and Yang, Z. (2022) “Learning from Older Adults’ Use of Urban Parks in Hong Kong’s Low-income Areas”, The Journal of Public Space, 7(2), pp. 9–28. doi: 10.32891/jps.v7i2.1473.
Author Biographies

Caterina Villani, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Design

Dr Caterina Villani is PolyU Distinguished Postdoctoral fellow at The School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Villani’s research explores the planning and logic of public space production and its informal use by vulnerable groups in Asian global cities, with a particular focus on Hong Kong. Her PhD research was fully funded by the HKPFS Fellowship (Research Grants Council of Hong Kong). Covering the areas of social sustainability, policy research, spatial planning and sharing practices, Villani aims to combine multi-disciplinary approaches to envision alternative processes and urban forms.

Kin Wai Michael Siu, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Design

Prof. Kin Wai Michael SIU is Eric C. Yim Professor in Inclusive Design and Chair Professor of Public Design, School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is Founder and Leader of Public Design Lab. He is Leader of Research Group for Sustainable Public Design of RISUD. He supervises PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. He is fellow of numerous professional engineering and design organisations. He has been invited by a number of universities as visiting professor and scholar, including the University of Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Fulbright Scholar), National University of Singapore (ASIA Fellow), UC Berkeley, and Tsinghua University. His research areas are in public design, user reception, user centered design, inclusive and universal design, FlexiDesign®, design and engineering education. Based on Vygotsky’s ZPD concept and Bruner’s scaffolding theory, he introduced the concept of Scaffolding Innovation for design learning. He is editorial and advisory member of numerous journals. He has been appointed to serve as a member of research grant bodies and accreditation councils. He solely owns over 50 US and international patents and design registrations, and over 60 international invention and design grand awards. He has published over 300 research papers in top-tier academic journals.

Zi Yang, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Design

Zi Yang is a PhD student in the school of design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her main research interests are public design, service design, focus on public service, and positive welfare.


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