Belgrade: The Voices of Older People To Be Heard
Along with its sister cities, Athens and Aarhus, the City of Belgrade (Belgrade Municipality of Stari Grad) conducted a detailed survey, engaging local residents to gather their insights, hopes, and challenges of the designated demo sites. In this case, those are Kalemegdan park, Ada Ciganlija, and Košutnjak park, and 38 participants gathered at the premises of the Municipality of Stari Grad to talk to local experts about their health challenges, how to improve on them, and what would trigger their stronger motivation to embrace more active, more healthy lifestyles, but also visit the demo sites even more frequently.
As a counter-balance to a very young participants group in Athens, the Belgrade team dealt with somewhat older audiences, ranging from 55 to 82 years of age but nevertheless, highly motivated to participate, contribute, have their say, and make an impact on their environment, that is 30 women and eight men.
In all three demo sites, the most prominent activities taking place are light exercise, resting, sunbathing, board games, and conversation – most often while simultaneously watching over kids. Fresh air, contact with nature, cultural heritage, peace, and rest are their main motives for choosing these places. More precisely, 10.5% declared fresh air to be the main reason for visiting, while this answer was included in combination with all offered options in most cases. 62.2 percent enjoy the ambiance, 13.5% ride a bicycle while the same percentage of participants meditate, 29.7% walk, and the same number of people seek shade on the site, while around 27 percent use the site to socialize and spend time with friends and family.
Still, visitors of the Košutnjak demo site put a stronger focus on physical activities than those who visit Ada Ciganlija and Kalemegdan. Interestingly enough, the majority of visitors of all demo sites usually spend their time in the morning, while dog owners tend to visit multiple times a day, thus having an overview of the site in the evening hours.
Participants declared no particular downsides and negative impacts to their physical health of the demo location, but the majority of participants marked better cleanliness as a prerequisite for more frequent visits, but also constant reminders of the health benefits of physical activities.
All locations were recognized as safe for the majority of social groups during the day (most of them visit the location in the morning and/or late afternoon), but participants accentuate the need for better safety in the evening and night hours (when there are mostly teenagers sitting in the park, or young adults visiting the nearby raft clubs and restaurants.
The largest portion of answers suggests that demo sites are safe for all social groups, but 4.5% don’t find it safe for ethnic/cultural minorities.
The majority of visitors point out that the demo location is one of their favorite meeting points with friends where they walk, socialize, play board games, and watch over children.
A GAZE INTO THE BRIGHTER FUTURE
The participants of the Belgrade workshop keep an optimistic and ambitious outlook on the future use of the site but 50% state that a better quality of greenery would encourage them to embrace a more active lifestyle, and 42% say it would be greener pedestrian lanes, 44% need more greenery near their residential area, while 36.8% would be encouraged by a tracking device.
Many participants asked for more organized cultural, social events, or sports activities but with a special focus on sensitive social groups, so they could feel invited, safe, and taken care of.
Many asked for organized educational sessions on health or other practical “life-hacks”, where they could share experiences, get in touch with experts first-hand in a non-formal setting
Some pointed out the need for a park to stay open-access for all
A number of visitors said they would like to see more children’s playgrounds, marked dog parks, but also footing/jogging and bicycle lanes, accessible rest-rooms on multiple points across the park, shaded benches, potable water fountains, flower beds, interesting lighting as to make the visits more enjoyable
While the SMS “won” as the most desirable mean of informing/communicating about the site with 44.4%, followed by 38.9% choosing social media, and 33.3 for email, a significant percentage of participants (25%) opted for in-person meetings, and other forms of direct communication, education, and possible feedback.