Ageing out of bounds
: evaluating the design of public spaces to develop young-old-friendly communities

  • Jingshu Tang

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


As the problem of ageing gradually increases, the community living environment for
the older people, ageing in place (AIP), has become a key focal point. However, as a
developing country, China is lagging behind in the construction of urban community-based facilities for elders, which is in stark contradiction to the relatively developed ageing society elsewhere. The living conditions and environments in China have not yet advanced as a community-based elderly care service system, which largely limits citizens social participation and thus affects their quality of life (QoL). This study focused on young-old (YO) aged 60-74, who have the highest use of outdoor public spaces in the community of all age group. Previously, there has been little research in China on the impact of public space on YO behaviour and the needs of YO for a community public space environment. Therefore, the main objective of this research is to provide design strategies that can improve the well-being of YO people by studying their environmental behaviour and needs.

This study engaged with 15 communities and 560 older adults in Shenyang, China, through observations, questionnaires, one-to-one and group interviews. Based on human needs theory, universal design and inclusive design, this research summarises the characteristics of daily community activities of older adults of different ages, analyses YO people evaluation of, and needs for the community environment. This study develops a community design model for young- old living and proposes a set of specific guiding strategies based on this model, including community layout, facilities, fixtures and community policies, and introduces four key design principles of safety, convenience, communication and respect. Overall, the investigation and analysis of this study has important implications for the living environment and well-being of older adults in China, especially YO. These principles are transferable to other communities worldwide.
Date of AwardJun 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSaul Golden (Supervisor) & Justin Magee (Supervisor)


  • Young-old
  • Young-old-friendly community
  • Age-friendly community
  • Public space
  • Environmental design

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