1.1 Accessing quality space
People of all ages need access to quality natural spaces. The older population is growing. Many feel physically isolated due to a number of factors including inability to drive; the cost of public transport; and not knowing what resources are available for their age group, both on their doorstep and beyond.
Poorer socio-economic groups generally have less access to greenspaces (Public Health England, 2014), with children in this group having nine times less accessibility (National Children’s Bureau, 2013).
Why it matters
By 2041, the UK’s over-65 population is due to grow by approximately 50%, with the number of over-85s due to double by 2023 – faster than the general rate of population increase at 23% (Tinker and Ginn, 2015).
Less than half of people over 80 find it easy to travel to a hospital, and more than 70% of these are in fair or poor health (Holley-Moore and Creighton, 2015).
Studies in the Netherlands, Canada and Japan have shown that a 10% increase in exposure to green space translates to five years fewer expected health problems (Groenewegen et al, 2003). Green and open space is linked to better wellbeing across all ages and socio-economic groups (Maas et al, 2006), including improved companionship, sense of identity & belonging, and happiness (Pinder et al, 2009; White, 2013).
The mortality rate gap between deprived groups and the rest of the population is 43% if they have high access to greenspaces compared with 93% if the deprived groups have low access to greenspaces. Deprived neighbourhoods benefit most from close proximity and access to green space, helping to promote integration of diverse groups and ease racial tensions via casual encounters over recreational activities such as sport (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2010).
- Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (2010) Community green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health, London: CABE.
- Groenewegen, P., de Vries, S., Verheij, R., Spreeuenberg, P. (2003) Natural environments – healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health, Environment and Planning A, 35, 10, 1717–31.
- Holley-Moore, G. and Creighton, H. (2015) The Future of Transport in an Ageing Society. London: International Longevity Centre UK.
- Maas, J., Verheij, R., Groenewegen, P., de Vries, S., Spreeuenberg, P. (2006) Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60, 7, 587–92.
- National Children’s Bureau (2013) Greater Expectations: Raising aspirations for our children, London: National Children’s Bureau.
- Pinder, R., Kessel, A., Green, J., Grundy, C. (2009) Exploring perceptions of health and the environment: a qualitative study of Thames Chase Community Forest, Health & Place, 15, 1, 49–56.
- Public Health England (2014) Local action on health inequalities: Improving access to green spaces. London: Public Health England, 2014334.
- Tinker, A. and Ginn, J. (2015) An Age Friendly City – how far has London come? London: King’s College London.
- White, M. (2013) Would you be happier living in a greener urban area? A fixed-effects analysis of panel data, Psychological Science, 24, 6, 920–8.