There are many documented benefits for older adults to get outside, yet some spend almost no time outdoors, most of the year. As we age, our environment becomes increasingly more important, significantly impacting our ability to perform common or enjoyable activities of daily living. As we lose some ability to adapt to our environments, making adjustments to create more supportive environments may be viewed as preventative health care. An appropriately modified outdoor space can influence our ability to maneuver within the environment, reduce risks of falling, and make being in the space more comfortable.
Behavior affordances. The first recommended feature is not a feature, but a process. While it is surprisingly difficult enough to design an appropriately supportive environment, simply providing suitable furniture does not guarantee the space will be used. One effective approach to designing spaces that will be used is to think and design in terms of behavior affordances. Affordance in this case means realizing the range of behaviors made possible by an environmental adjustment.
Wayfinding. Another important feature is a smooth, level and clearly understood path with distinct visual cues to aid the wayfinding process. Well-designed and strategically placed signs should be augmented with sculpture, colorful plants, bird feeders or other items of visual interest. Obvious and continuous pathways are essential for adults with dementia, and useful for all older adults. Frequent seating opportunities along the path should be provided.Seating. A third, and maybe the most important feature of an outdoor environment for older adults, is the provision for seating for both open and protected areas of an outdoor space. Comfort is vital to attract users into an outdoor space, and providing protection from sun and rain can extend the use of an outdoor space. Being able to choose a microclimate (sunny warm space or cooler shady space) can be the difference between a well-used space or an empty one.