Culp, Bonita Anne (2019-03). Characteristics of the Physical Environment That Influence Older Adults' Preference for and Usage of Outdoor Areas: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • Research indicates that access to outdoor environments may provide an opportunity for seniors' emotional and physical renewal. However, even though older adults have been reported to value the outdoors, many times the outdoor spaces are underutilized. Numerous studies have shown that older adults' outdoor use is strongly related to the physical environmental design. To determine which design characteristics are perceived by older adults as influencing outdoor usage, both positively and negatively, and in both private and public settings, this study performed a systematic review of the literature resulting in a comprehensive, objective, and reliable overview of all the identified relevant evidence. The review procedure incorporated extensive structured database search, selection of studies using inclusion and exclusion criteria, quality appraisal of the included studies, and integrated synthesis of the study findings. The review included 33 primary studies reflecting qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Reported environmental influences on outdoor use related to aesthetics; safety and security such as stable seating and shade; accessibility concerns including distance to the outdoor space; activities including walking and socializing; and the physical and sensory elements associated with nature experiences. Older adults also reported personal influences including a sense of freedom, variety, and a connection to surrounding life and past times. The results enable evidence-based design decisions to be made that would positively impact the potential outdoor use, resulting in benefits to health and well-being.

publication date

  • March 2019