Perception of parks and trails as mobility facilitators and transportation walking in older adults: a study using digital geographical maps

  • Timo HinrichsEmail author
  • Kirsi E. Keskinen
  • Béla Pavelka
  • Johanna Eronen
  • Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss
  • Taina Rantanen
  • Erja Portegijs
Original Article



Transportation walking represents a promising target for physical activity promotion in older adults. Perceived characteristics of the neighbourhood physical environment may affect older adults’ choice of transportation mode for a routine activity such as walking to the grocery store.


To (1) evaluate associations between older adults’ perception of parks and trails as outdoor mobility facilitators and transportation walking, specifically to the grocery store; and (2) explore whether the spatial relationship between people’s home, perceived facilitator and store was relevant for their transportation choice.


Cross-sectional data were collected in a subsample of the ‘Life-space mobility in old age’ cohort. Multivariable logistic regression analysis on the binary outcome ‘transportation walking’ (vs. ‘motorized transportation’) was used to evaluate the association with perceived mobility facilitators in the neighborhood; in step (1) without and in step (2) with taking spatial relationships into account.


Perceiving a park as facilitator increased the odds of walking (N = 179; Odds Ratio 9.89; 95% Confidence interval 3.11–31.50). Spatial relationships did not affect transportation choice. Reporting a trail as facilitator was not significantly associated with walking.


Our findings suggest that the perception of environmental characteristics in the neighbourhood has an influence on older people’s transportation choices. Taking environmental measures or informing older adults on their options in the neighbourhood might be possible ways to increase older adults’ transportation walking on a population level.


Geographic information systems Environment Mobility Physical activity Aged 



This study was funded by the Academy of Finland, the Future of Living and Housing (ASU-LIVE; Grant number 255403 to TR) program and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (to TR and EP).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Department of Sport, Exercise and HealthUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Gerontology Research Center, Faculty of Sport and Health SciencesUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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