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Green Spaces for the Second Half of Life

Promotion of quality of life and health through new qualities of green spaces in different living situations of older people in the German part of Switzerland

At a glance


In urban planning today, the concept of urban densification prevails, though often at the cost of urban green spaces, especially in housing areas. At the same time, in light of demographic and societal changes and an ageing population, green spaces in the immediate living environment are becoming crucially important to the rising population of the elderly, whose living radius becomes smaller, social integration more difficult and limitations due to health problems more prominent.

Agents responsible for providing housing have at their disposal a variety of models and typologies of housing solutions to offer senior-friendly homes. Yet, too little attention has been paid to the design of green spaces in the immediate living environment focused on the needs and wishes of the growing number of people in their second half of life. There is little scientific research relating to possible beneficial effects that green spaces and gardens could provide for a healthy, self-determined and fulfilling life specifically in older age.

The research project "Green spaces for the second half of life – promotion of quality of life and health through new qualities of green spaces in different living situations of older people in the German part of Switzerland“ addresses these questions and offers solutions.

In this project, seven exemplary residential green spaces in different types of housing (senior living community up to multi-generation cooperative housing) where the garden played a role in the cohabitation of the inhabitants were analysed and documented. The goal was to formulate advice and guidelines for people who would like to initiate, undertake and operate a garden project themselves and to deliver practical insights to agents responsible for housing.

The main focus of research was directed at the social processes that take place when a garden project is initiated, planned, designed, installed and operated together in a group and what effects this could have on the physical and psychological health and well-being of the participants. To obtain this information, 28 qualitative semi-structured interviews with inhabitants, i.e. garden users, were conducted, transcribed and evaluated. In addition, interviews with other relevant stakeholders (planners, caretakers, owners etc.) took place. The results were combined with an in-depth analysis of the green spaces themselves (functional, ecological, social, aesthetic aspects).

According to the findings of the project, gardens and green spaces in housing developments - when used and operated jointly and designed accordingly - can play a major role in promoting physical health, psychological well-being and a meaningful organisation of the second half of life. While they are not totally free of social challenges, they do offer possibilities for a better social integration of older people. In order to succeed, such solutions must provide opportunities for a wide range of nature experiences in correspondingly spacially-differentiated green spaces.

The scientific findings led to a substantial publication (special issue of the widespread Swiss design magazine Hochparterre) as well as in a « garden box » - consisting of 66 guidelines and 16 worksheets guiding through all steps that are necessary when a group of people initiates, plans, realises, uses and maintains a garden. Both publications are accessible from a newly created website www.alter-grü

Further information