URBANAGE 

flanders - use case 1: Green Comfort

Reading Outside

Description and goal

In the framework of the Urbanage project, we see a relevant contribution of digital twin technology to increase the green comfort of the minds and bodies of older people. We see the following digital twins' aspects to be relevant parameters in defining the green comfort :

 

  • the identification of shady places (streets, squares, market places, parks, …) in the city, created by buildings as well as by trees. But also the identification of heat islands, to be avoided by older people;

  • the availability of green (trees and other greenery, stand alone or organised in parks, forests, …) as well as blue infrastructure such as pools, ponds, rivers, canals but also fountains. Besides the relaxing effect, these elements are also refreshing factors [4];

  • the availability of street furniture (benches, tables, toilets, lighting, fountains, drinking fountains), increasing the comfort/quality of relaxation zones;

  • good accessibility of the green comfort zones. With qualitative walking routes, roads & sidewalks/pavements (with street furniture resting points) reachable and accessible for older people with limited mobility;

  • the application of artificial intelligence to analyse satellite/aerial imagery (Open Access Hub - copernicus.eu + yearly Flanders high resolution aerial images) and Google Street View image analysis (mapping by IMEC). Helping to calibrate, improve and expand existing datasets.


Based on these parameters, a green comfort index value will be attributed to areas in the city. Defining the weight of each parameter and the interaction of all parameters will be a major challenge of the green comfort Flanders case.

 

Besides the automatic allocation of the green comfort index value, we plan to allow older people in the cities to make some adjustments of the index values. Based on their feedback, recalculations and factor weight updates can be performed (using artificial intelligence) to optimise the green comfort index value.

 

In the framework of policy participation and co-creation, we also plan to stimulate interaction between older people and policy makers by making use of gamification elements.

Involved persona’s

The older people´s community:

  • can find relaxing, refreshing and comfortable green zones in their city that are accessible/reachable using our Urbanage solution. This can be a digital map on a smartphone/tablet/laptop, as well as a printed poster in the common area of a residential care centre;

  • can give feedback to improve the determination of the green comfort quality index, making the Urbanage solution more accurate;

  • is invited to participate in policy decision making and co-creation, making use of various feedback and gamification techniques that will be introduced. The community can make suggestions to the placement of street furniture, they can vote on predefined scenarios, they can mark and comment places where green comfort is lacking, lagging or failing, and they can interact with each other by rating and commenting existing comments.

 

Politicians/Decision Makers:

  • can consult Urbanage maps to find out:

    • where trees, shade and water elements are lacking;

    • where to plant new infrastructure that is accessible/reachable for (disabled) older people and increasing the green comfort;

    • what kind of infrastructure is needed;

    • where green comfort is missing.

  • can create scenarios and invite the older people to participate in decision making;

  • can consult the feedback of older people, helping them to take supported & democratic decisions.

Expected outcomes

Social goal-related

  • Older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, chronic illness, hearing loss, and reduced mobility.

  • Also, studies have shown that maintaining regular physical activity helps older people to keep fit and to prevent many common diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

  • That is why it is important that the older people stay active, including by going outside regularly. As confirmed by the outcome of the workshop with the older people community, the availability and quality of walks in the neighbourhood is a major concern. The Flanders Urbanage green comfort case wants to address this concern, by helping older adults not to suffer of loneliness and stay in shape mentally and physically, as well as by providing tools to stimulate and facilitate comfortable, refreshing and healthy mini-excursions into their neighbourhood.

 

Policy related

  • Older adults are not always well-organised groups, they are often isolated individuals who are hard to reach. That is why they are often insufficiently taken into account or simply forgotten at the level of policy and decision making.

  • The Flanders Urbanage green comfort case helps policy and decision makers to take measures to improve the green comfort of older adults. The Urbanage solution provides policy-related solutions from different angles:

    • indirectly, the generated maps can help policy makers to make decisions to improve the green comfort for older people in their city;

    • directly, but in a more passive way, policy makers can consult the suggestions and feedback, given by individual older people using the Urbanage solution;

    • directly and actively, by offering the tools to create elaborate scenarios and to present these scenarios to the target group of older people. They can vote, they can give feedback/suggestions and they can react to ideas presented by others.

 

Communication/co-creation/co-design related (storytelling, gamification)

  • The outcome of the Flanders green comfort case applications may inspire related projects & initiatives but also the whole society and older people in particular. That is why the integration of strong communication & dissemination tools will be important.

  • Also, communication is crucial when calling for action, when raising awareness is a goal and when feedback on pre-set scenarios is prerequisite. Older people need to be aware that they have a voice to change the green comfort in their own city, that their opinions matter & count in the city society and that they can make a difference improving the life quality of themselves and other older adults. Civil servants must be aware as well that older people have a role to play and make their opinion counted so they can take part of the decisions. Civil servants should understand how they can include older people in the process without ageist stereotypes, to achieve a real co-creation design.

  • Dissemination tools may include a website, social media channels but also existing storytelling tools that present Urbanage stories in a clear, fresh and compelling way.