Perceptual quality of neighbourhood design and feelings of unsafety

Liesbeth De Donder, Tine Buffel, Sarah Dury, Nico De Witte, Dominique Verté

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This paper takes the quality of life in the neighbourhood as a starting point and appeals to the framework of Age-friendly Cities to gain insights in how 'the neighbourhood as a physical surrounding' can either promote or hinder feelings of unsafety in later life. It examines the impact of the perceived design of the neighbourhood on feelings of unsafety in later life. Literature on the relationship between feelings of unsafety and the neighbourhood mainly concentrates on incivilities and disorder. Other physical-spatial features of the neighbourhood are rarely taken into consideration. Using data generated from the Belgian Ageing Studies (N=25,980) multivariate analyses indicate that a neighbourhood which is perceived to be physically adapted to the needs of older people (in terms of accessibility and distance to services) heightens feelings of safety. The findings demonstrate the need to reduce behaviour constraints by redesigning fear-related physical features. This conclusion raises practical implications and formulates a number of policy recommendations to tackle feelings of unsafety in an ageing society. Copyright © 2012 Cambridge University Press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)917-937
Number of pages20
JournalAgeing and Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • age-friendly cities
  • broken windows
  • fear of crime
  • feelings of unsafety
  • neighbourhood
  • older adults


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