A neighborhood’s “walkability” can be a key factor for maintaining physical and cognitive health among older adults.
Researchers from the University of Kansas presented evidence at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America that neighborhoods which motivate walking can stave off cognitive decline in older adults.
“People can walk either to get somewhere or for leisure,” said Amber Watts, Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical psychology.
“Depending on which type of walking you’re interested in, a neighborhood might have different characteristics,” she said. “Features of a neighborhood that encourage walking for transportation require having someplace worth walking to, like neighbors’ houses, stores, and parks.”
Watts said neighborhoods that inspire walking for leisure also are full of pleasant things to look at, like walking trails or shade provided by trees. Also, such neighborhoods should make people feel secure on foot.
“For older adults, safety is a key issue in walkability,” she said. “That includes things like traffic lights that give ample time to cross, sidewalks that are in good repair, and benches to stop and rest.”