From Britain and the BBC News comes this interesting piece that may also have impacts on how we design and think about city streetscapes. In Britain, the walkers used by the disabled and seniors are called “Zimmers” after a manufacturing company that used to produce them. One care home worker noticed that these walkers are all designed and made in a slate grey colour, the same colour that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have trouble differentiating and seeing. Undertaking a project called “Pimp My Zimmer” volunteers came into the care homes to paint and modify the walkers with art so that each one was individually identifiable as being unique to the owner. The simple act of colouring up walkers and walking aids meant that seniors with dementia felt more confident at identifying their own walking device, and actually used it more, of course creating more sociability and well-being. Trips and falls were also reduced with the use of the colourful personalized walkers that were no longer the imperceptible colour of grey.
City and parks planner Alan Duncan created the “Wellness Walkways” a special treatment of the walking environment around Mount Saint Joseph Hospital and the adjoining care homes in Mount Pleasant. Using non glare concrete sidewalks with saw cut joints, generous garden beds with plants for smell and touch, and benches that wheelchair users could transfer to, Duncan created a safe comfortable environment that had strong visual and sensory cues for seniors.
In the City of Vancouver sidewalks are left grey, and powdered textured paint or colour is not used to change the colour. With an expanding seniors population that will be using walking as a main mode for transportation perhaps it is time to experiment with making surfaces for walking more colourful and bright, and enhancing colour and form on street amenities such as benches, wayfinding and receptacles. As cities examine how to keep an aging population more active and fit, and encourage sociability at any age, splashing colour on sidewalks and surfaces could encourage walkability. The BBC video about “Pimping My Zimmer” can be viewed here.