Bursting with Stride – Age Friendly Christchurch

Ōtautahi Christchurch can be more walkable!
Students at the University of Canterbury recently found opportunities for Ōtautahi Christchurch City to be more walkable. 
This was part of the course Resilient Cities, Geography 402, which is a course that examines the theory and practice of sustainable urban development. This year with the theme of climate change adaptation, five students collaborated with Christchurch City Council’s Project 8011 to study the perspectives of older residents (55+) walkability in the Central Christchurch City northern neighbourhoods. Nick Reid took this course as part of his Civil and Natural Engineering honors year, and this course is from the faculty of Environment and Earth Science. 
Project 8011 is a programme to create highly liveable neighbourhoods and densify the Central City. The earthquakes of 2010/11 created a drop in the resident population of Ōtautahi Christchurch City, and therefore, Project 8011 is a programme to create highly liveable and attractive neighbourhoods to densify the Central City. 

Why walkability?
Firstly, a few of the students are members of the Jane Jacobs’ fan club. 
Factors that influence the walkability of a neighbourhood include physical attributes, amenity access, availability of community gathering spaces, appearance of the neighbourhood and proximity to bus stops. Walkable neighbourhoods not only have health, environmental and economic benefits, but will also be more socially connected, equitable and resilient to climate change.

Why older people & why 55?!
Ensuring streets are walkable for older residents leads to more inclusive neighbourhoods for all. Older people tend to have more health complexities, including more mobility challenges and chronic illnesses. Health issues can cause a decline in independence making people feel more isolated, particularly if the ability to drive is lost or they become less mobile. Therefore, when streets are more walkable, they can retain existing residents and attract new ones. The age bracket chosen was over 55 years, to include those who may be contemplating growing older in their current dwelling.  

Summary of results
Key results highlighted how walkability could be enhanced by ensuring pedestrians’ networks are safe and accessible, encouraging more local amenities, protecting and enhancing green infrastructure and creating community bumping spaces. Many participants felt a strong sense of place as they had lived in the neighbourhood for some years and wanted to stay living independently there. 
Why should you care?
With the increasing ageing population, there is an increasing need for accessible, inclusive, and social connected cities. These results of the perspectives on walkability and the transport related factors that attract or deter people to cities, can help councils incorporate the needs of older people in their sustainable urban planning. The team of students encourages those with influence in urban and transport planning to consider the perspectives of those who are less able in walking (including their older selves) and consider these findings to ensure a better outcome for everyone, especially as we transition our cities to become resilient to climate change.

Age Friendly Design advocacy in Ōtautahi
Emily Ward, Luci Trethewey and Nick Reid presented this research at the 2021 Age friendly Ōtautahi workshop (Transportation Group, Urban Design Forum). They were one of the wide array of speakers/groups from age friendly advocates, decision makers, architects, urban designers, planners, engineers, people in public health. 
In 2022, this continued widespread interest in Ōtautahi for Age Friendly Design (and Age Friendly Cities) led to the interactive workshop: 2022 Creating Safer Streets, Age Friendly Ōtautahi. This workshop event was run by Transportation Group (Canterbury Branch), Abley and ViaStrada. 

Bursting with pride - Research group's poster

Presented by:

  • Nick Reid
  • Emily Ward

Non-presenting authors:

  • Luci Trethewey
  • Emma Woods
  • Holly Luzak

Supervised by:

  • Dr Lindsey Conrow
  • Dr Rita Dionisio


Emily Ward and Nick Reid presenting at the Walking Summit (July 2023)


Where presented/published