Producing Therapeutic Spaces for All: Older Leisure Physical Exercisers’ Leading Role in Urban China.

Authors: Peiling Zhou*, Michigan State University, Sue C. Grady, Michigan State University, Mark W. Rosenberg, Queen's University, Guo Chen, Michigan State University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Urban Geography, China
Keywords: Contributions of older people, therapeutic landscapes, public spaces, age-friendly cities, physical activity, China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As the world’s older population grows to 671 million (He, Goodkind and Kowal, 2016), it is essential to propose and design age-friendly and healthy cities to adapt to increasingly older residents. It is also time then, to consider the potential contributions that older people can make to the construction of healthy cities in which they live (Skinner, Cloutier and Andrews, 2015). To achieve this objective, this paper proposes a new conceptual framework by simultaneously considering both therapeutic and identity construction functions of urban public spaces. With an increasingly older population, Asian cities provide settings that can be used to demonstrate the value of the conceptual framework proposed. By using a case study of two Chinese cities, Beijing as a large city and Huainan as a small city, this paper delineates a picture in which older leisure physical exercisers lead and cooperate with other age-group exercisers in the production of a therapeutic public space. According to eight month’s participant observation and interviews in public parks of the two cities, this study demonstrates that older Chinese physical exercisers produce therapeutic functions by their collective performance of physical activity and provide a sense of liveliness and security which attracts more exercisers to join in and pursue health and wellbeing within the same spaces. The findings show that the therapeutic public space serves as a valuable new framework that helps to reveal and estimate older people’s contribution to societies; the framework also expands the boundaries of both therapeutic landscapes and public spaces.

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