Scientific forecasts indicate a great increase in the elderly population in the upcoming years and emphasize the attention to their diverse needs and social life. The lack of attention to the elderly's social needs limits their potential for social participation and reduces their quality of life. The existing studies often investigate the elderly's physical needs in public places but there are insufficient studies on their social needs, especially in urban public places. The aim of this study was to evaluate the environmental physical factors affecting the social well-being of the elderly in the body of urban public spaces in a case study.
The idea of active aging was first introduced with an emphasis on being active to maintain health and productivity. Active aging later supported personal decisions, independence, social status, and an increase in the quality of life of the elderly. The concept of "active aging" refers to the ability to participate in social, economic, and civic life, and maintenance of well-being by providing opportunities for the elderly to engage in meaningful and attractive activities to facilitate their independence. According to the World Health Organization, not only genes and personal characteristics, but also urban public places and social factors can play important roles in determining the health and well-being of individuals in their lives. Free, public, and green urban spaces provide opportunities for social interaction and cause the feeling of existence in society.
This is a descriptive-analytical study that was conducted in Mosalla Park and Sheikh Safi sidewalk in Ardabil, Iran in two stages. To this end, 47 physical factors were first classified into 5 indices, and 50 architectural experts compared the effective physical needs in improving social well-being in two case study samples. In the second stage, 74 elderly people in the case samples answered the Keyes standard social well-being questionnaire with 5 indicators. Finally, the data obtained from the two steps were analyzed in SPSS 26 software.
Results and Discussion
Therefore, the Wilcoxon non-parametric test was performed to compare physical factors between two case samples. Sheikh Safi walkway had more favorable physical factors than Mosalla Park. Cochran–Mantel–Haenszel test (CMH) was performed to obtain the affectability of social well-being of the elderly by physical factors in case samples. According to the results, the elderly on Sheikh Safi sidewalk have better social well-being. Findings showed that the quality of physical factors and the improvement of these factors in public open space leads to a positive effect on the social well-being of the elderly. In this study, "Footpaths with a slope of less than 5%" with the highest average value among the significant items, is the most effective factor that affects the social well-being of the elderly.
Planners and designers must challenge their previous mindsets with a new look at physical criteria. Many factors affected the elderly's social well-being. An important part of these factors was related to the architecture, design, and physical characteristics of urban spaces; hence, social health advocates should cooperate with urban designers and architects in the field of determinants of promoting the elderly's social well-being, and adopt policies and strategies which consider their needs to involve them in social life with equality.