The built environment and active life-styles in older adults: an analysis of the location of care services in Portugal

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The relationship between the built environment and people's health has been a frequent scientific subject. The ageing populations of many developed countries has further increased the interest in this relationship. At the core of these studies is the assumption that, as people age, they become more sensitive to the physical space they live in, which can form barriers or, on the contrary, contribute to active life styles. But the role the institutions for older adults can assume in this context, and how their location and surrounding built environment can affect their users’ mobility, has often been ignored by this discussion. This paper focusses on this relation, by analysing 17 care facilities in Portugal. For this analysis, interviews were conducted with 36 professionals and 137 users, and in locu assessments of their location was made. Through this methodology, it was found that the proximity to primary services is fundamental for an active lifestyle in institutionalized older adults and their integration in the neighbourhood. Particular attention should thus be paid to the broader location of these facilities in the urban context, and not only to the assessment of the surrounding environment’s walkability levels.
Ageing, built environment, care facilities, proximity, active lifestyles