Just a walk in the park, or is it? : a case study analysis of a Seniors Community Park in Oak Bay, British Columbia.




Bills, Kathryn J.

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A major demographic shift is projected to begin in 2011 due to the retirement of those born between 1946 and 1965, or the post-World War II baby boomer generation. Due to this trend, it is pertinent for Canadian communities to concentrate on creating ‘senior-friendly’ spaces, infrastructure and support services. One such initiative throughout British Columbia is the establishment of 18 designated Senior Community Parks (SCPs) across the province in 2008. This case-study research project, taking place in Oak Bay, British Columbia on the grounds of the Henderson Recreation Centre (HRC), examines park visitation levels, types of utilization and effectiveness of park accessibility, and infrastructure. A mixed methods approach was employed combining seven park observations, sixty-five quantitative questionnaires completed by patrons of the Henderson Recreation Centre, and 16 qualitative interviews with community-dwelling older adults between the ages of sixty-one and eighty and with six staff members of the HRC. Results indicate steady but low park visitation amounts as only 55 total people were seen during observations. Almost all persons were observed walking or jogging and only one person was seen using the equipment within the park. Quantitative data revealed under-utilization of the park and a wide discrepancy between the number persons aware of the SCP (90.8%) and those that visit more than once a month (38.5%). Qualitative interviews uncovered aspects of the park favored by participants (chip trail, park upkeep, exercise opportunities) and those that require improvement (exercise equipment, awareness). Two infrastructural shortcomings were identified; signage and equipment stations. Based on results, the ineffectiveness of the outdoor exercise equipment and awareness of the SCP need to be investigated further.



Seniors Community Parks, Older Adults, Healthy Aging, Geography, Physical Activity