Park planners urged to cater to the elderly

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am

As city's population ages, academic calls for parks to be updated for the grey market

Park planners should pay more attention to the needs of the elderly and handicapped, said a researcher after his survey found most regular visitors to the city's 1,400-plus parks were middle-aged or elderly.

Now a lawmaker is backing his suggestion.

The researcher, geography lecturer Kenneth Wong Koon-kwai, said most of the city's parks had been built in the 1960s and 1970s, when the population was more youthful.

But with the falling birth rate, Hong Kong was now an ageing society and it was time for a comprehensive review to accommodate the needs of park users.

'There wasn't any systematic research or long-term policy, and now it is important to take the elderly and the handicapped users into considerations in future urban parks planning,' said Professor Wong of Baptist University.

A survey of 758 people conducted by the university found the majority of frequent visitors to parks were aged 50 or older.

Lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung agreed that the government should take more account of the needs of older park users.

'Some bars were placed on walkways to keep the hawkers out of the parks, but they may have become barriers to handicapped users in wheelchairs,' said Dr Cheung, who represents the welfare sector in the Legislative Council.

Professor Wong said most respondents to the survey considered Victoria Park to be the most representative of urban life in Hong Kong.

Visitors to the park in Causeway Bay yesterday had their own views about park design.

Mr Hung, who is 81 and goes to Victoria Park every day, hoped more facilities would be built for the elderly.

'If there were higher fences along the walkways, we could hold onto them and that would help us avoid falling over,' he said.

'But I'm quite satisfied with what we have now; it's difficult to accommodate such a big park in the middle of the city.'

Another park user suggested urban parks needed to be larger.

'Maybe it's because I come from overseas, but I just feel there isn't much green space in the park,' said a visiting New Zealander. More than one in six of the frequent park users surveyed said parks needed more facilities.

A Mr Cheung, who plays football in Victoria Park once a week, said more water fountains were needed, complaining that he often had to walk some distance to find one.

Professor Wong believed more people would visit the city's parks if they had more individuality.

'We looked at urban parks overseas and found they have their own strong characteristics,' he added.

The academic said a park in Shanghai was known for its cultural scene, where people gathered to play traditional instruments.

A spokeswoman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said the suggestions would be considered.

Leisure time

The Baptist University survey asked frequent visitors how long they usually spent in parks

The proportion saying they spent up to two hours per visit was: 71%