Age-Friendly Sarasota Report Highlights Outdoor Spaces, Public Building Findings
Age-Friendly Sarasota recently completed an assessment of nearly 1,200 Sarasota County residents’ aspirations regarding community features across eight domains of livability. Findings were analyzed by age group, including Boomers (age 50-69 at the time of the study) and non-Boomer Elders (age 70+). This blog series will review key highlights from each of the domains.
Outdoor spaces and public buildings are important community features. When we think about our daily lives, we visit or encounter outdoor spaces and public buildings on a regular basis – things like parks or parking lots, and shopping venues.
When we experience these places as safe and accessible, it encourages activities and involvement in community life. Accessibility involves removing barriers that limit opportunities for people with disabilities, including those of us who do have (or will have) age-related impairments that could for example, affect our walking, or our ability to communicate and otherwise allow us to participate in social activities or access organizations and businesses.
Sarasota County residents reported that well-maintained sidewalks, public buildings that are accessible to people of different abilities, separate pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians and well-maintained, accessible public restrooms are the most important outdoor space and public building community features.
- Boomers indicate a greater importance for all outdoor features with greatest difference in importance reported for exercise equipment in the parks (60% vs. 49%), well-maintained parks within walking distance of home (86% vs. 79%), well-maintained, accessible public restrooms (90% vs. 83%), adequate benches in the parks (86% vs. 79%), and safe parks in walking distance from home (86% vs. 79%).
There is variability regarding whether or not the most important open space and public buildings community features exist in the community. Many residents are uncertain about the presence of outdoor features.
- Despite the importance of outdoor features, only about half of all Sarasota County residents reported that there are separate pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians (46% - 52%) and one-third (33%) reported the presence of accessible public restrooms. Though more than half of all residents said sidewalks are in good condition, about one-third reported the absence of sidewalks that are free from obstruction (31% - 33%).
Sarasota County residents shared many desirable outdoor spaces and that they appreciate the amenities of public areas as well; however, increased accessibility would better meet the desires of people with varying stages of abilities.
- Residents reported enjoying the attributes of multiple outdoor spaces including the natural surroundings they encountered in parks and trails, the safety and convenience of neighborhoods, sharing environments with people of all ages, and the ability to both exercise and socialize outside.
- While proximity to parks was appreciated by residents, many reported difficulties accessing parks, particularly if they used a mobility device such as wheelchair, walker or scooter.
- Visiting beaches via boardwalk access was appreciated although alternative beachfront accommodations were not helpful.
- Many people reported visiting public areas with accommodations such as automatic doors, others report difficulties accessing buildings.