The existence of public spaces in neighbourhood areas is not only important but essential to ensure the quality of life of the residents within the area. The requirement that has been set up by the government to ensure that housing developers need to provide open space in the residential area has received a great response from the community. However, the extent to which the government regulates design and standards to ensure that the public space meets the need to serve people of all ages for outdoor activities, physical activity and socializing. With the increasing number of the elderly, the importance of providing neighbourhood public space for their group should be looked into. Due to the Pandemic Covid 19, there is a huge restriction for the elderly to move about and spend quality time outside.
Public space is “the space that is open to all, owned by all and used by all members of the public” (Al Shams et. al, 2013)
It consist of an outdoors environment, which generally gives relief from urban hectic life (Project for Public Place, 2000).
Chitrakar (2014) shows that there is a strong connection between dimensions of physical, social and psychology with public space where psychology helps to grow a sense of community in a neighbourhood area especially for the elderly. According to Katarina Ana Lestan et al (2014), the equipment of the open space in neighbourhood areas for the elderly is always neglected.
Public space should be provided to various users; however, this does not happen to most public spaces especially in Malaysian neighbourhoods. The current circumstances are, the spaces are in a poorly managed condition, lacking good design and recreational equipment that can fulfil various user groups, as this restricts the use of the public space to kids only, thus decreasing usage by other age groups such as adolescents, adults and elderly people. All open spaces in the newer residential area are predominantly used by the youngest residents, while the absence of equipment for other age groups results in less usage among them. There is a lot of data about the design of outdoor spaces for the elderly, but there is a lack of instruments to transmit this data to the designer.
Factors to determine elderly leisure activities are including demographic, psychological, cultural, social, economic and geographic factors reflecting the place of residence. Social isolation can lead to problems of loneliness and mental health experienced by some elders, who are also more susceptible to physical health problems. Health-related lifestyle varies between places with better possibilities for outdoor activities. The majority of the elderly were aware of the need for exercise, but only half of them regularly engage in physical activity.
This issue needs to be addressed by the local government comprehensively as according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the increase of elderly in 2019 is 6.7% of the total population which affects the old-age dependency ratio.
Recently, there is no specific guideline in Malaysia that can be used to help the developer in designing public spaces for the elderly as the number seem to be increasing over time. Most commonly,
The local government must provide public space with facilities and equipment’s that match the need of the elderly and need to manage the equipment and facilities comprehensively.
The local government can ensure elderly-friendly public spaces through the provision of guidelines to the developer to guarantee that the proposed public spaces fulfil the needs of the elderly without compromising the other age groups.