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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(8), 1340;

Cognitive and Sensory Dimensions of Older People’s Preferences of Outdoor Spaces for Walking: A Survey Study in Ireland

School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Enterprise Centre, North Mall, T23 TK30 Cork City, Ireland
School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, William Thompson House, Donovan’s Road, T12 E6F3 Cork City, Ireland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 February 2019 / Revised: 9 April 2019 / Accepted: 12 April 2019 / Published: 14 April 2019
PDF [322 KB, uploaded 14 April 2019]


Background: Physical exercise, particularly walking, benefits healthy ageing. Understanding the environmental circumstances in which exercise occurs is crucial to the promotion of physical activity in older age. Most studies have focused on the structural dimensions of environments that may foster walking; however, individual differences in how older people perceive and interact with outdoor spaces need further attention. This study explored the cognitive and sensory dimensions of preferences of outdoor spaces for walking. Methods: We invited 112 healthy community-dwelling people aged ≥60 years to complete a survey to test associations between walking preferences and cognitive/sensory vulnerability. A subsample also completed focus groups/walk along interviews to explore qualitatively the cognitive/sensory reasons for outdoor walking preferences. Results: While most participants indicated a preference for outdoor spaces that offer variety and greenery, we observed a complex association between individual cognitive/sensory needs (stimulation seeking vs. avoidance), preferences for social interactions, and the place of residence urbanity level. Furthermore, walking preferences varied based on the purpose of the walk (recreation vs. transportation). Conclusions: Our findings support an ecological approach to understanding determinants of physical activity in older age, which consider the interaction between individual cognitive processing and the environment. View Full-Text
Keywords: outdoor spaces; aging; physical activity; sensory sensitivity; cognitive failures outdoor spaces; aging; physical activity; sensory sensitivity; cognitive failures
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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  • Externally hosted supplementary file 1
    Doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/8NP73
    Description: Supplementary File 5. Quantitative study dataset identifier

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Cassarino, M.; Bantry-White, E.; Setti, A. Cognitive and Sensory Dimensions of Older People’s Preferences of Outdoor Spaces for Walking: A Survey Study in Ireland. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 1340.

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