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CAN WE GET OLD HERE? SENIORS' PERCEPTIONS OF SEASONAL CONSTRAINTS OF NEIGHBOURHOOD BUILT ENVIRONMENTS IN A NORTHERN, WINTER CITY

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ABSTRACT.

Populations around the world are ageing. In response, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed initiatives to encourage cities and regions to become age‐friendly for seniors. This work examines WHO's age‐friendly domains in the context of a northern, winter city in Canada. The urban centre of Edmonton, Alberta experiences both a climate characterized by long, cold winters and a sprawling, built environment with very low population densities. The research found that seniors did report a difference in built environment preferences in summer and winter and that some of those preferences match the elements of the eight WHO domains. However two additional important findings also emerged. First, winter weather was the dominating concept for discussion of the environment regardless of the time of year, and these weather concerns conflated seniors' perceptions of public–private spaces, pointing to the need to carefully examine how this conflation might influence civic participation. Second, participants almost unanimously spoke to the need to make individual adaptations in order to navigate their environments as their mobility decreased. In other words, instead of expecting environmental adaptations to meet their changing needs, seniors accepted and individually managed – to the best of their ability – the ongoing challenges. These findings provide empirical results that can be used to develop supportive built environments in winter cities, with an emphasis on ‘upstream’ health geography and public health imperatives that enable safe and vibrant neighbourhoods to support healthy aging, which has implications for geographers, planners, and public health personnel.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Human Geography ESB 1-26, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6G 2E3, 2: Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6G 1C9, 3: Colabora Consulting, 9821 – 89th Ave., Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6E 2S3,

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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