Insights into Healthy Ageing research
By PhD Candidate Eme John, as we acknowledge International Older Persons Day on 1st October


What research have you been doing since joining PowerLab?

I have become much more appreciative of the beneficial effects of green space, especially tree cover, for not just shade for recreation, aesthetics and physical activity but for removal of particulate matter in the air and supporting an ecosystem that benefits everyone. My work in the PowerLab has made me more aware of the impact of neighbourhood green spaces and our lifestyle choices on our health and wellbeing as we grow older. For the past two years, I have been investigating the association between green space and a holistic measure of healthy ageing. To do this, I had to construct a composite score that aggregates the health outcomes that are relevant to healthy ageing. I also uncovered a two-dimensional structure of the Healthy ageing score which can be regarded as functional capacity and resilience. This work is being extended to uncover whether green space is actually causative of healthy ageing. My work has also included investigating whether green space provision can be leveraged to provide beneficial health outcomes in deprived communities as one way of bringing their health outcomes to par with those of more affluent areas. In furthering this work I am also investigating whether changes in residence can impact the effect of long-term exposure to green space on healthy ageing.

What motivated you to get involved with researching Urban Green Spaces and Healthy Ageing?

Healthy ageing should be the goal of anyone. With increasing longevity it is only natural we strive to function and do the things that give us fulfilment for as long as possible. I was excited to learn that nature has the potential to provide a means for use to rejuvenate and maintain good health even long into the grey years. I became interested in helping figure out how/what the relationship between green space and healthy ageing works/is. The calibre of the Faculty in the PowerLab was also a huge incentive for me as I was sure that I will get the best guidance from world renowned experts. Lastly, I do want to be capable and independent for as long as possible when I get old. I hope you want the same.

Happy International Day of Older Persons

On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons (resolution 45/106). This was preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later that year by the UN General Assembly. The 2021 theme for the International Day of Older Persons is “Digital Equity for All Ages”, which affirms the need for access, safe and meaningful participation in the digital world for older people. The necessity of using digital devices for work and interpersonal interaction has become another challenge for older people to deal with.

As we celebrate the older people whom we are fortunate to have in our lives today, we must support and encourage them to learn and improve on the digital skills they need in order to participate in the digital world and get the support that is available online. Furthermore, older people also feel a sense of independence and dignity when they do not have to rely on others to use digital resources for work, getting support, fun and keeping in touch with friends and family. Our work in the PowerLab has shown that we can support and encourage and advocate for older people to improve their health and wellbeing by spending time outdoors in green spaces, eating healthily, drinking enough water, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, keeping in touch with friends and family, pursuing hobbies and leisure, having regular medical check-ups, reducing stress and staying positive.

Eme’s Scholarship is funded by the ‘Greener Cities Healthier Lives project’.
Project information can be found here.

PhD Supervisors:

Professor Thomas Astell-Burt, University of Wollongong

A/Prof. Ping Yu

Dr. Chris Brennan-Horley