Evidence shows that walking in urban parks has multiple health benefits for older adults, but little research is available on their preference for specific walkway features. This study explored a range of common landscape and hardscape features to learn which were preferred by park users over age 60. This photo comparison study hypothesized that older adults would prefer certain features of urban park walkways, with each feature represented by four different paired images (28 pairs in all). Within each pair of photos, both were identical except for the specific feature being tested in that comparison, where the image was digitally modified to depict the hypothesized feature. A total of 283 older adults (mean age 71 years) completed the survey by selecting the images they preferred. In this Chinese sample, older park users significantly favored all seven hypothesized walkway features, providing empirical support for the existing research and design-based literature on green space for older adults. This study found minor gender differences in visual preferences for walkway features and increasing preference for access to seating with advancing age. By helping to confirm which walkway features are preferred by older adults, these findings can be used to improve the future design and management of urban parks in China, which are an important source of exercise and recreation for nearby elderly residents.
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