The move is on to increase public accessibility to communal spaces for people with various levels of mobility. Communities across the globe are making urban gardens, art galleries and exhibitions, parks and other spaces easier to access for those who are “differently abled”. Improved access also makes it easier for seniors to enjoy these activities, which is very beneficial to their health.
It’s a well known fact that engaging in outdoor activities, hobbies and other types of social interaction can help to ward off isolation, depression and anxiety in seniors. According to the National Institute on Aging, “there is a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults”. Studies show it can lower blood pressure and the inflammation that can lead to many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise can also help to keep the brain healthy in order to ward off the symptoms of dementia. Harvard Medical School says that regular exercise can “increase the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the region of the brain that is responsible for thought. Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses).” When this happens, the brain performs better.
Improving accessibility and ease of use of public spaces is leading to many innovative approaches to life and leisure.
Gardening: In Halifax, Nova Scotia, urban gardens are being redesigned so that people of all mobility levels can participate in gardening. Garden beds are raised so that people in wheelchairs can reach them easily. It’s also easier for people going through rehabilitation of different types to engage in therapeutic gardening. Common Roots Urban Farm garden is working to expand the number of wheelchair accessible paths and is planning a tactile garden for the visually impaired.
Art Galleries: The Tangled Art Gallery in Toronto, Canada features wheelchair seating for about 30 people. All films include closed captioning, and all live performances include ASL interpretation and/or live audio description. In addition,all the art featured in the gallery is created by disabled artists.
Public art exhibitions: In the country of Peru, an art show was presented in both print and Braille. Called, ‘The essential is invisible to the eyes: art for inclusion of people with disabilities’ it displayed El Principito’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Public parks: Two parks in Newton, Iowa are increasing ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant so that more people can enjoy the public spaces. They have substantially increased the number of handicap designated parking spaces, widened walkways, and removed obstacles to walking.
Clothing: Yes, clothing! A company called IZ designed a collection of high-end garments
that can be worn by people who use wheelchairs. Each piece of clothing has been altered so that it is easier to put on and wear.
Treehouse: In California, a 2,500 square food universally accessible treehouse gives people of all physical abilities the opportunity to see the world from a bird’s eye view. Ramps allow people to access the higher level of the structure. It was the first such treehouse in the nation and now nearly 30 have been built across the country.
As the United Nations says “Well-designed and maintained public space is critical to the health of any city. Such gathering spaces allow for social mixing, civic participation, recreation, and a sense of belonging.” We also know they improve social interaction for seniors, and the ability to enjoy outdoor spaces and fresh air. The innovations and creative ideas that improve these spaces make them more accessible and improve life for everyone.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.