Australians tell us what they want in parks and playgrounds | Border mail

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One of the many lessons we have learned over the past 18 months has been the tremendous value of our parks and outdoor spaces as important community assets in local neighborhoods. When we have been locked up or physically removed, they have been an easily accessible refuge for exercise and fresh air, and have helped us maintain our physical, social and mental health. But not all of our parks are suited to their function or meet the needs of the community. We know this because our three-year research study, ProjectPARK, took a close look at what features people prefer in their local parks to encourage them to visit and be active and social. It is perhaps not surprising that different age groups value different characteristics. Children told us they enjoyed the opportunities for physical challenge, risk and adventure, such as long flying foxes, large adventure playgrounds, trees for climbing, large round swings, obstacle course and large climbing equipment. An 11-year-old boy described his perfect park thus: “A very large playground, like a large wooden structure with a high section. There are a lot of areas, and it’s like a maze, but it’s lifted off the ground. And there is a part where it’s very high and the playground has a lot of paths and stuff. ”Teenagers like places to hang out with friends, sports fields and goals, big grassy green spaces. , large swings, and outdoor fitness equipment. They prefer parks that are large, adventurous and stimulating and enjoy cafes and barbecue and picnic areas for socializing. A 14-year-old told us what she likes to do with her friends at her local park: “My friends and I just come here and mess around, so sometimes we go on the swings or we push ourselves on the slide and play on the swing until we were falling because we are dizzy. “Seniors enjoy more peaceful and relaxed environments with walking paths, shady trees, birds and water features. Cafes and barbecue and picnic areas are available. also import ants for social interaction. A 69 year old woman told us that her ideal park was “nice and secluded, away from main traffic. There are tall trees, nice lawns, quiet, it feels good and it’s easy to walk around. access”. The research, conducted by the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University, included interviews with more than 100 children, adolescents and the elderly in nine parks in Melbourne. We then surveyed over 1,500 people of the same age range and asked them to rate different features of the park and perform tasks to identify the features most important to encourage visits, physical activity and social interaction. We also interviewed over 20 key stakeholders involved in park design, planning and management. The information we have gathered is more important than ever, as cities are increasingly congested and more and more people are living in homes with more humble origins. Opportunities to be active and to interact with others are needed to alleviate high levels of chronic disease, physical inactivity and obesity, social exclusion and reduced contact between people and nature. Physical inactivity is responsible for more than five million deaths per year worldwide. Currently in Australia, around 70 percent of children and adolescents and 55 percent of adults do not get enough physical activity to meet Australian government recommendations. Parks have the power to help meet these challenges, but only if they meet the needs of diverse user groups. Notably, playpen use is particularly low among adolescents and adults 65 and over. Our research contains important messages for local government, park planners and designers. We need to prioritize greening parks and public spaces to include shady trees, landscaping, gardens and a lush environment with birds that create a feeling of being in nature rather than just a space open with amenities. It is also important to allocate funds for ongoing maintenance, so that our parks do not become bare and lifeless or overgrown and dilapidated. Our participants told us that they are more likely to visit a park that looks attractive, regardless of the other amenities available. Well-designed parks that meet the needs of all age groups can provide valuable opportunities for everyone to be active and social, promoting good health, good humor and a happy community. Researchers: Associate Professor Jenny Veitch, Professor Anna Timperio, Professor Kylie Ball, Professor Benedicte Deforche, Elise Rivera (doctoral student)

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