Assessing the restorative value of the environment: A study on the elderly in comparison with young adults and adolescents

Rita Berto
Published Online:
14 Sep 2007
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 42 Issue 5

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Nature is not only appreciated for its aesthetic characteristics, but is also a useful resource for people. It plays an important role in the process of attention restoration and recovery from stress. Young adults and adolescents assess natural environments as being more restorative than built environments. This study sought to test whether natural environments are more restorative than built environments for the elderly as well. The study is made up of two phases: (1) an empirical study with the elderly, (2) a comparison of data from the elderly with two earlier studies of adolescents and young adults. To achieve this aim a group of 50 elderly people (age range: 62–93 years) was asked to rate the restorative value of 10 pictures of environments ranging from natural to built, covering 5 environmental categories: housing, industrial zone, city streets, hills, and lakes. Each picture was assessed using the Perceived Restorativeness Scale. Participants were from three living situations: elderly living in a place for old people located in a green area (N = 18), elderly living in a place for old people located in an urban area (N = 20), and elderly living in their own homes (N = 12). Results showed that all three groups of the elderly evaluated the natural environments as more restorative than the built environments. The elderly data were then compared with the data from a sample of adolescents (N = 60, age range: 11–14 years) and of young adults (N = 100, age range: 18–29 years). All three groups rated natural environments as more restorative than built environments. The evaluation of preference and familiarity, however, differed between age groups, with adolescence being less familiar with and less in favour of natural environments than young adults and the elderly. Restorativeness and preference were correlated among all age groups, while familiarity and restorativeness were correlated only among the elderly.

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