Factors Influencing the Elderly’s Visits to and Exercise in Public Parks during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Tokyo, Japan

Suwasin Prompan


The objectives of this study were two-fold: 1) to identify patterns in the elderly’s visits to urban parks during the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo; and 2) to identify whether visiting urban parks allowed the elderly to meet their social interaction needs during the pandemic. The sample comprised 400 elderly people in Tokyo. The study was conducted immediately after the Japanese government relaxed restrictions on social activities in the community, allowing people to visit public parks, railway stations, religious places, malls, communities, and the like. Statistical analysis consisted of the use of percentages, means, standard deviations, t-tests, one-way analysis of variances, and pairwise tests using least significant difference. Urban parks are an important public service resource for the elderly living in urban areas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to parks, gardens, and other local green spaces was recognized as vital to people’s physical and mental health. The elderly, as a highly vulnerable group, experienced a considerable reduction in mobility during the pandemic. The results of this study indicate that elderly people of different genders and ages did not make different decisions about their visits and return visits to parks during the pandemic, whereas those with different educational levels and occupations before retirement made significantly different decisions. All participants stated that they appreciated the liveliness, contact with nature, access to social spaces for their age group, cleanliness and safety, and various atmospheres and activities offered by the parks. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity to review society, public spaces in urban areas, and the elderly population of Tokyo in particular. Relevant agencies should review facilities according to the preferences of the elderly to encourage their use of parks for the mutual benefit of society in general and the elderly in particular.


Keywords: Tokyo, elderly people, COVID-19, public parks.


DOI: https://doi.org/10.55463/hkjss.issn.1021-3619.62.21

Full Text:



ABDOULLAEV, A. (2011). Keynote: A smart world: A development model for intelligent cities. Proceedings of the 11th IEEE international conference on computer and information technology (CIT). Retrieved from https://www8.cs.ucy.ac.cy/conferences/CIT2011/files/FUTURE_CITY.pdf

ANGULURI, R., & NARAYANAN, P. (2017). Role of green space in urban planning: Outlook towards smart cities. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 25, pp. 58-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.04.007

ARTMANN, M., CHEN, X., IOJĂ, C., et al. (2017). The role of urban green spaces in care facilities for elderly people across European cities. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 27, pp. 203-213. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2017.08.007

BERDEJO‐ESPINOLA, V., SUÁREZ‐CASTRO, A. F., AMANO, T., et al. (2021). Urban green space use during a time of stress: A case study during the COVID‐19 pandemic in Brisbane, Australia. People and Nature, 3(3), pp. 597-609. https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10218

CARLSON, J. A., SALLIS, J. F., CONWAY, T. L., et al. (2012). Interactions between psychosocial and built environment factors in explaining older adults’ physical activity. Preventive Medicine, 54(1), pp. 68-73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.10.004

CHIESURA, A. (2004). The role of urban parks for the sustainable city. Landscape and Urban Planning, 68(1), pp. 129-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2003.08.003

CITY MONITOR STAFF (2022). Where are the oldest and youngest cities in the world? Retrieved from https://citymonitor.ai/community/where-are-the-oldest-and-youngest-cities-in-the-world

CURTIS, D. S., RIGOLON, A., SCHMALZ, D. L., & BROWN, B. B. (2022). Policy and environmental predictors of park visits during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic: getting out while staying in. Environment and Behavior, 54(2), pp. 487-515. https://doi.org/10.1177/00139165211031199

D’AMBROGIO, E. (2020). Japan’s ageing society. European Parliamentary Research Service. Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2020/659419/EPRS_BRI(2020)659419_EN.pdf

DA SCHIO, N., PHILLIPS, A., FRANSEN, K., et al. (2021). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use of and attitudes towards urban forests and green spaces: Exploring the instigators of change in Belgium. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 65, 127305. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2021.127305

DUAN, Y., WAGNER, P., ZHANG, R., WULFF, H., & BREHM, W. (2018). Physical activity areas in urban parks and their use by the elderly from two cities in China and Germany. Landscape and Urban Planning, 178, pp. 261-269. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.06.009

E-STAT PORTAL SITE OF OFFICIAL STATISTICS OF JAPAN. (2022). Population by Age (Five-Year Groups) and Sex for Prefectures - Total population, Japanese population, October 1, 2022. Retrieved from https://www.e-stat.go.jp/en/stat-search/files?page=1&layout=datalist&toukei=00200524&tstat=000000090001&cycle=7&year=20220&month=0&tclass1=000001011679&stat_infid=000040045496&tclass2val=0

GAIKWAD, A., & SHINDE, K. (2019). Use of parks by older persons and perceived health benefits: A developing country context. Cities, 84, pp. 134-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2018.08.001

GEORGE, D., & MALLERY, P. (2021). IBM SPSS statistics 27 step by step: A simple guide and reference. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429056765

GUO, M., LIU, B., TIAN, Y., & XU, D. (2020). Equity to urban parks for elderly residents: Perspectives of balance between supply and demand. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(22), 8506. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17228506

HAVENS, T. R. (2010). Parkscapes: Green spaces in modern Japan. University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved from https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9780824860592/html

HAYWARD, D. G., & WEITZER, W. H. (1984). The public’s image of urban parks: Past amenity, present ambivalence, uncertain future. Urban Ecology, 8(3), pp. 243-268. https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-4009(84)90038-X

HO, C. H., SASIDHARAN, V., ELMENDORF, W., et al. (2005). Gender and ethnic variations in urban park preferences, visitation, and perceived benefits. Journal of Leisure Research, 37(3), pp. 281-306. https://doi.org/10.1080/00222216.2005.11950054

HUNG, K., & CROMPTON, J. L. (2006). Benefits and constraints associated with the use of an urban park reported by a sample of elderly in Hong Kong. Leisure Studies, 25(3), pp. 291-311. https://doi.org/10.1080/02614360500409810

ICHIKAWA, H. (1994). The evolutionary process of urban form in Edo/Tokyo to 1900. The Town Planning Review, pp. 179-196. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40113289

IKEDO, K. (2023). The Five Best Parks Hidden in Tokyo. Retrieved from https://tokyotreat.com/blog/the-five-best-parks-hidden-in-tokyo

IWAKURA, N. (1978). Outline of the National Archives of Japan. Archivalische Zeitschrift, 74(1), pp. 77-94. https://doi.org/10.7788/az.1978.74.1.77

KEMPERMAN, A., & TIMMERMANS, H. (2014). Green spaces in the direct living environment and social contacts of the aging population. Landscape and Urban Planning, 129, pp. 44-54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.05.003

KONDO, R. (2022). Envisioning Central Park in Tokyo: A Comparative Study of Hibiya Park and Central Park. Retrieved from https://olmsted.org/envisioning-central-park-in-tokyo-a-comparative-study-of-hibiya-park-and-central-park/

KONGPHUNPHIN, C., & SRIVANIT, M. (2021). A multi-dimensional clustering applied to classify the typology of urban public parks in Bangkok Metropolitan Area, Thailand. Sustainability, 13(20), 11426. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011426

LEVINGER, P., CERIN, E., MILNER, C., & HILL, K. D. (2022). Older people and nature: the benefits of outdoors, parks and nature in light of COVID-19 and beyond–where to from here? International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 32(6), pp. 1329-1336. https://doi.org/10.1080/09603123.2021.1879739

LEVY-STORMS, L., CHEN, L., & LOUKAITOU-SIDERIS, A. (2018). Older adults’ needs and preferences for open space and physical activity in and near parks: A systematic review. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 26(4), pp. 682-696. https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.2016-0354

LLOYD, K., BURDEN, J., & KIEWA, J. (2008). Young Girls and Urban Parks: Planning for Transition through Adolescence. Journal of Park & Recreation Administration, 26(3). Retrieved from https://js.sagamorepub.com/index.php/jpra/article/view/1311

LOUKAITOU-SIDERIS, A., LEVY-STORMS, L., CHEN, L., & BROZEN, M. (2016). Parks for an aging population: Needs and preferences of low-income seniors in Los Angeles. Journal of the American Planning Association, 82(3), pp.236-251. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2016.1163238

MARTIN, J. H., & MARTIN, P. G. (2012). Tokyo a Cultural Guide. Tuttle Publishing.

MCCORMACK, G. R., ROCK, M., TOOHEY, A. M., & HIGNELL, D. (2010). Characteristics of urban parks associated with park use and physical activity: A review of qualitative research. Health & Place, 16(4), pp. 712-726. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2010.03.003

MINISTRY OF LAND, INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND TOURISM. (2023). Details about systems concerning parks and green spaces: regarding urban greening. Retrieved from https://www.mlit.go.jp/common/000996961.pdf

MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT. (2012). General overview of area figures for Natural Parks by prefecture. Retrieved from http://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/doc/files/np_6.pdf

MISHRA, P., SINGH, U., PANDEY, C. M., et al. (2019). Application of student’s t- test, analysis of variance, and covariance. Annals of Cardiac Anaesthesia, 22(4), 407. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6813708/

MODER, K. (2010). Alternatives to F-test in one way ANOVA in case of heterogeneity of variances (a simulation study). Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling, 52(4), 343.

MURAYAMA, M., & PARKER, G. (2006). Sustainable leisure and tourism space development in post- industrial cities: the case of Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan. In Tourism, culture and regeneration (pp. 69-84). Wallingford UK: CAB International. https://doi.org/10.1079/9781845931308.0069

MUSHKANI, R. A., & ONO, H. (2021). The role of land use and vitality in fostering gender equality in urban public parks: The case of Kabul city, Afghanistan. Habitat International, 118, 102462. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2021.102462

NOVOTNÝ, R., KUCHTA, R., & KADLEC, J. (2014). Smart city concept, applications and services. Journal of Telecommunications Systems and Management, 3(1), pp. 2167-0919. https://doi.org/10.4172/2167-0919.1000117

ONOSE, D. A., IOJĂ, I. C., NIȚĂ, M. R., et al. (2020). Too old for recreation? How friendly are urban parks for elderly people? Sustainability, 12(3), 790. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030790

PERRY, M., COTES, L., HORTON, B., et al. (2021). “Enticing” but not necessarily a “space designed for me”: experiences of urban park use by older adults with disability. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 552. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020552

PLESON, E., NIEUWENDYK, L. M., LEE, K. K., et al. (2014). Understanding older adults’ usage of community green spaces in Taipei, Taiwan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(2), pp. 1444-1464. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph110201444

PROMPAN, S., & KANTACHOTE, K. (2022). Developing Public Green Spaces to Serve the Elderly in Bangkok. Journal of Social Sciences, Shrinakharinwirot University, 25(2), pp. 175-191.

RIGOLON, A. (2016). A complex landscape of inequity in access to urban parks: A literature review. Landscape and Urban Planning, 153, pp. 160-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.05.017

SHIBA, N. (2012). The Emergence of Public Parks in Japan: Hibiya Park Designed in Western Style. Aichi Gakuin University Faculty of Letters Bulletin, 41, pp. 45-54.

SULLIVAN, W. C., KUO, F. E., & DEPOOTER, S. F. (2004). The fruit of urban nature: Vital neighborhood spaces. Environment and Behavior, 36(5), pp. 678-700. https://doi.org/10.1177/0193841X04264945

TAVARES, L. M., & MARINHO, A. (2021). Leisure and COVID-19: Reflections on Brazilian older adults who frequent urban public parks. World Leisure Journal, 63(3), pp. 229-243. https://doi.org/10.1080/16078055.2021.1957010

TAYLOR, H. A. (1995). Urban public parks, 1840-1900: Design and meaning. Garden History, pp. 201-221. https://doi.org/10.2307/1587078

THOMPSON, C. W. (2002). Urban open space in the 21st century. Landscape and Urban Planning, 60(2), pp. 59-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-2046(02)00059-2

TOKYO CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU. (2023). Indulge in nature and see Tokyo’s best seasonal foliage at the city’s myriad parks and gardens. Retrieved from https://www.gotokyo.org/en/see-and-do/attractions/parks-and-gardens/index.html

TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT. (2015). Parks in Tokyo. Retrieved from https://www.kensetsu.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/english/jigyo/park/01.html

TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT. (2017). The birth of city parks. Retrieved from https://www.toshiseibi.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/keikaku_chousa_singikai/pdf/tokyotoshizukuri/en_1_07.pdf

TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT. (2021). Tokyo Data. Retrieved from https://www.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/english/about/environmental_policy/documents/creating_a_sustainable_city_e_1029.pdf

TSURUMI, K. (2015). Social change and the individual: Japan before and after defeat in World War II. Princeton University Press.

UNITED NATIONS. (2023). THE 17 GOALS - Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from https://sdgs.un.org/topics/sustainable-cities-and-human-settlements

VAN HOLLE, V., VAN CAUWENBERG, J., DEFORCHE, B., et al. (2015). Do psychosocial factors moderate the association between objective neighborhood walkability and older adults’ physical activity? Health & Place, 34, pp. 118-125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2015.05.004

VEITCH, J., BALL, K., RIVERA, E., et al. (2022). What entices older adults to parks? Identification of park features that encourage park visitation, physical activity, and social interaction. Landscape and Urban Planning, 217, 104254. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2021.104254

WEN, C., ALBERT, C., & VON HAAREN, C. (2018). The elderly in green spaces: Exploring requirements and preferences concerning nature-based recreation. Sustainable Cities and Society, 38, pp. 582-593. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2018.01.023

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO). (2021). Older people & COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/teams/social-determinants-of-health/demographic-change-and-healthy-ageing/covid-19

WORLD POPULATION REVIEW. (2023). Life Expectancy by Country 2023. Retrieved from https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/life-expectancy-by-country

XIE, J., LUO, S., FURUYA, K., & SUN, D. (2020). Urban parks as green buffers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sustainability, 12(17), 6751. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12176751

YAMANE, T. (1973). Statistics: An introductory statistics. (Second Edition). New York: Harper & Row.

YAMAZAKI, T., IIDA, A., HINO, K., et al. (2021). Use of urban green spaces in the context of lifestyle changes during the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo. Sustainability, 13(17), 9817. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13179817

YIGITCANLAR T, DESOUZA KC, BUTLER L, & ROOZKHOSH F. (2020). Contributions and Risks of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Building Smarter Cities: Insights from a Systematic Review of the Literature. Energies, 13(6), 1473. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13061473

YUNG, E. H., CONEJOS, S., & CHAN, E. H. (2016). Social needs of the elderly and active aging in public open spaces in urban renewal. Cities, 52, pp. 114-122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2015.11.022

ZHANG, K., KAN, C., LUO, Y., et al. (2022). The promotion of active aging through older adult education in the context of population aging. Frontiers in Public Health, 10, 998710. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.998710

ZHAO, P., ZHAO, Z., LIAO, C., et al. (2022). Urban park accessibility and the mental health of older adults: A case study of Haidian District, Beijing. Leisure Studies, 42(2), pp. 235-252. https://doi.org/10.1080/02614367.2022.2094994


  • There are currently no refbacks.