“Can I Come To The Park?” Access to Urban Open Space: An investigation of older adults in Australia, their perceived and real access to open space, and implications for practice.

Stephen Gibson

Research output: ThesisNon-UWA Thesispeer-review


Do older adults access open space to fulfill different needs than younger adults? Prior studies determine that age, gender, and culture influence open space visitation, but we know little about why. Yet, older adults are particularly disadvantaged if their specific needs, preferences, or constraints in accessing open space are not considered. Practitioners who plan, design, and manage these spaces need guidance regarding the older adult experience in open space to encourage visitation.

Referencing self-determination theory, this study focuses on autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs fulfilment in older adults, interactions between older adults and open space, and motivations that nurture older adult open space revisitation. Perceptions of accessibility among younger versus older adults, and between men and women are compared. The research aims to 1) develop a deeper comprehension of older adult motivational aspects of open space use; 2) develop means through which practice can focus on providing appropriately planned, designed, and managed open space; and 3) consider ways wherein community engagement processes may realize the potential for provision of older-adult-friendly open space.

The study utilizes a mixed-methods empirical approach combining qualitative and quantitative data and analysis to illuminate the complexity of psychological needs in the motivation to visit open space and the elements required to satisfy these needs. 23 interviews and 1043 survey responses from Australia were comprehensively analyzed to test hypothesized relationships within a theoretical model of motivation for open space visitation.

Findings indicated that older adults 65 and over differ in the level and type of motivation to visit open space than younger adults. More so than younger adults, older adults were motivated to revisit an open space that fulfills their autonomy needs. Elements of the natural environment were the strongest significant predictors of autonomy need fulfilment in older adults, both men and women, followed by elements of convenience (for men) and community (for women). Finally, results indicated that when older adult autonomy needs are fulfilled, revisitation to open space is likely. Implications for location and amenity were derived from these findings. Recommendations for design, planning and management of open space to increase visitation are provided.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of California Los Angeles
  • Loukaitou-Sideris, Anastasia, Supervisor, External person
  • Mukhija, Vinit, Advisor, External person
  • Takahashi, Lois, Advisor, External person
  • Banerjee, Tridib, Advisor, External person
Award date24 Mar 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2017


Dive into the research topics of '“Can I Come To The Park?” Access to Urban Open Space: An investigation of older adults in Australia, their perceived and real access to open space, and implications for practice.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this