Access to outdoor recreation by older people in Scotland

Report detailing research on access to outdoor recreation for older people.

5. Recommendations for policy and practice

A number of policy recommendations can be drawn from the research:

1. Interventions to promote outdoor recreation by older people (including those with a disability or limiting long-term health condition) should address the multiple and inter-related barriers preventing older people from participating in outdoor recreation. Integrated and holistic approaches involving different organisations from the public sector ( e.g. local authorities), third sector ( e.g. local community and voluntary groups), and private sector ( e.g. social enterprises) may offer opportunities to successfully address multiple barriers at the local level through complementary and co-ordinated action.

2. To maximise effectiveness, those involved in delivering interventions to promote outdoor recreation should consider how initiatives might target people at points in their life when changes in outdoor recreation are more likely to occur. The identification of such key moments of change helps to highlight points at which there may be enhanced opportunities to engage people in outdoor recreation. Four key moments were more strongly associated with changes in levels of participation in outdoor recreation: getting married and having children; children growing up; the onset of health problems; and spouses or friends passing away.

3. Interventions need to look beyond the sole individual and consider also his/her immediate network of relatives and/or friends. Other peoples' health, generally those the participant lived with or who were common outdoor companions also affect how much the person was able to get outside.

4. Interventions through "green prescribing" by doctors and medical professionals may be a valuable way to promote outdoor recreation amongst older people by providing encouragement and motivation to engage in outdoor recreation. However, "green prescribing" alone may be ineffective and in some cases counterproductive if the recommendations are not seen as being realistic. Green prescribing interventions should be integrated with existing initiatives like health walks which offer opportunities for overcoming social and motivational barriers.

5. Organisations managing places for outdoor recreation should ensure that spaces are kept obstacle free ( e.g. even ground, free of tree roots etc.), clean and well-lit, offering basic facilities such as toilet, benches and rest spaces. These aspects are especially important for older people and more so for those with physical disabilities.

6. Interventions should identify ways of providing transport (private or public) access to outdoor spaces to older people. Where possible, groups promoting outdoor recreation amongst older people ( e.g. through walking groups) should explore opportunities to link with existing community transport services to provide pick up and drop off services.

7. Interventions should promote a variety of local (walking) groups operating at different levels of difficulty, and accommodating different types of abilities and preferences. There may be value in considering single sex groups or 'quiet walking groups' for example. Local authorities should work in conjunction with third sector actors to establish a varied portfolio of activities and groups to maximize inclusivity.

8. Communication and integration between existing initiatives ( e.g. walking groups) running in parallel in local areas should be supported. Opportunities to support integration through the involvement of intermediary bodies ( e.g. local authorities, health services or partnerships such as Local Outdoor Access Fora) working with local initiatives should be explored. This integration would include 'far and wide' dissemination of existing opportunities through joint marketing information about the different local walking groups and their activities.


Email: Graeme Beale,

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