We have a walking trail in my neighborhood. It’s neither long enough nor is it particularly picturesque, it doesn’t lead to shopping areas or impressive views and yet despite that I see more and more of my neighbors taking advantage of its existence. The benefit to the walking trail in my neighborhood over the sidewalks is that the trail has well lit crossing sections and crosswalks, fewer crossing areas and a contiguous asphalt path (therefore no raised sections). Those features may have been more about aesthetics and function when they were put in but it turns out the benefits may extend to increased safety. A recent study out of Boston found that people who walked for recreation were half as likely to fall as those who were walking for some necessity such as shopping or going to appointments, even though they often walked for longer periods. Researchers found that walkers experienced a higher rate of falls on sidewalks, streets and curbs compared to recreation areas. Those falls were in-turn four times more likely to result in injury even though the walks were shorter.
Communities looking to create safe environments to encourage healthy living among its older citizens must incorporate plans for healthy walking areas. For individuals looking to continue living in their current home or even those considering making a move, an important consideration in determining where you’ll live in the future should include an assessment of the community’s streets, curbs and sidewalks but should also take into account its recreational areas.
Every year, 1 in 3 Americans aged 65+ falls—often leading to injury according to the National Council on Aging. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in adults 65 and over, making falls prevention a priority in order to curtail health costs and improve public health.
Click on the links below for more stories about the importance of walkable cities.