Lets go for a walk - Older people in the local environment

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords


  • CASE – Centre for Ageing and Supportive Environments


Demonstration project in Kristianstad

An accessible and safe outdoor environment increases the potential of older people to live independently with high quality of life: getting to the shops by themselves, taking a stroll or catching the bus to visit a good friend. To be able to rectify defects in the outdoor environment it is important to have a concerted grasp of what older people find problematic and how it affects their everyday life. The project involves the older people in a residential area in central Kristianstad.

By emphasizing the involvement of elderly people in a project applying a mixed-method approach, the overriding objective of this study was to identify and prioritize concrete measures aimed at increasing accessibility and safety in the outdoor pedestrian environment within a residential area of Kristianstad. Measures generally given priority were: the separation of pedestrians/cyclists, lower speed limits, better maintenance and specific measures in pedestrian walkways such as wider sidewalks, curb levels and form and more even surfaces on pavements.

The evaluation of the project focused on the effects of the measures implemented. The issue evaluated was whether the measures taken within the framework of the project had made the outdoor environment more accessible and safe for the residents. Accessibility in the area had improved. The proportion of people who experienced problems in traffic and in the pedestrian environment fell between the two occasions studied. The proportion of those who reported isolated obstacles had also fallen by the time of the follow-up. It is particularly interesting to note that those deficiencies that were assigned the highest priority for measures to be taken by the older residents had been most reduced, e.g. holes in the pavement, not enough beveling, poor snow clearance and maintenance during slippery conditions, bicyclists and mopedists on the pavement and too few benches. Overall valuation of measures taken was higher for women in particular as regards longer green time at signalized crossings, and for those reporting better perceived health, in particular concerning separation between bicyclists and pedestrians. As concerns changes in perceived difficulty as pedestrians and in outdoor activity, no differences were found, neither overall or in sub-groups. However, the study identifies which environmental measures older people appreciate, indicating that certain sub-groups may benefit more from interventions in the pedestrian environment.

The design of the project, with the older people participating as natural actors throughout the entire process, engendered great credibility concerning the project and the results. The project has also had spin-off effects. First of all, the older residents got to know each other in a different way than previously. They have made new contacts and friends. The project has been instrumental in starting up other activities among the residents that have created a feeling of solidarity in the area. The design of the project has provided the older people with new channels to the municipality, organizations and associations to communicate with and influence those within the community who are responsible for these matters. They have also played a very active part in disseminating information about the project, on the national as well as the international level, which has enabled them to express their opinions of the project in a direct manner. The mass media have taken a great interest in the project, and on all those occasions the older people in the area have been able to step forward to speak their mind and give their opinion of the project. They have also been natural actors at a number of national and international study visits in the course of the project.

The new knowledge generated within the project has been of the greatest importance for the municipality, the Swedish Road Administration and other interested parties. This knowledge could not have been gained without the design of the project, which involved the older people throughout the entire process. In prioritizing measures, not least, it became obvious that neither the representatives of the municipality nor those of the Swedish Road Administration could have envisaged that it is actually the small details in the environment that are of crucial importance for older people’s accessibility and safety.

The first part of the project started in 2002 and finished in 2007. It’s now continued within a doctoral project: “Design of the traffic environment and its importance for older pedestrians” which started in 2010.

Financial contributor
The Swedish Transport Administration Region Skåne
CASE (Centre of Ageing and Supportive Environments)

Selected Publications
Ståhl, A., Horstmann, V., Iwarsson, S. (2013) Intervention in pedestrian environments: Older peoples’ appraisal of environmental measures taken, and the effect on perceived difficulty as pedestrians and outdoor activity. Transport Policy, 27, 134–141.

Ståhl, A., Carlsson, G., Hovbrandt, P., & Iwarsson, S. (2007). “Let´s go for a Walk – Identification and prioritization of accessibility and safety measures involving elderly people in a residential area. European Journal of Ageing, 5, (3), 265-273.

Hovbrandt, P., Ståhl, A., Iwarsson, S., Horstmann, V., & Carlsson, G. (2007). Very old people’s use of the pedestrian environment: Functional limitations, frequency of activity and environmental demands. European Journal of Ageing, 4, (2), 201-211.

Ståhl, A., Iwarsson, S. Tillgänglighet, säkerhet och trygghet för äldre i den lokala miljön. Demonstrationsprojektet Kom så går vi. Slutrapport. Vägverket Region Skåne Publ 2007:109, Kristianstad.

Ståhl, A., Almén, M. Hur orienterar personer som är blinda längs ett kontinuerligt ledstråk. Vägverket Region Skåne Publ 2007:112, Kristianstad.

Ståhl, A. (2003). “Kom så går vi” Åtgärdsprogram – baserat på resultat från forskningscirkel, postenkät och deltagande observation. Vägverket Region Skåne, Lunds Tekniska Högskola, Kristianstads kommun, Kristianstad.
Effective start/end date2002/07/012007/07/01