Anna Brückner

Research themes
  • Governance
  • Water Resources
  • Governance, conflicts and natural resources
Thesis title

“Blue Health” for all? Investigating urban blue spaces as potentially therapeutic landscapes for elderly people in deprived communities. Learning from cases in Ruhr and Ahmedabad Metropolis

Thesis abstract

Urban blue spaces (urban blue) embrace all surface water bodies in cities such as rivers, lakes or fountains. Increasing evidence proves that exposure to urban blue has health-enhancing effects. Those potential health benefits include: increased physical activity and social interactions and enhanced mental well-being e.g., by experiencing contemplation and relaxation. Therefore, the provision of urban blue could help to tackle major public health challenges, including physical inactivity, obesity, social isolation or mental disorders, which are particularly common among elderly people. The blue landscape-health relationship is influenced by various individual and social-environmental factors; for example, socio-demographics, landscape preferences, geographic and cultural context, accessibility and qualitative attributes of urban blue. However, little is known about links between urban blue, health and well-being and its underlying mechanisms, in particular considering different social groups. Evidence from low- and middle-income countries is barely-there.

Facing an ageing and urbanizing world population, city planners of the 21st century are challenged to develop age-friendly and healthy urban environments which promote greater equity in countries of all levels of income. According to the SDGs, this involves to provide universal access to inclusive, safe and accessible open spaces, particularly to vulnerable population groups, such as senior citizens. Though health benefits of blue space exposure are increasingly reported, current urban planning is mostly practiced without taking those salutogenetic potentials into account. At the same time, water spaces have gained momentum in urban planning, actualized in an intensification of world-wide waterfront regeneration in recent decades. Deprived communities being at the heart of urban regeneration are typically affected by high environmental health risks and less provided with urban blue and green. Aiming to improve the quality of life in those areas, regeneration activities enhancing the neighborhood’s physical design offers rationale to include health-promoting aspects of urban blue spaces.

This multiple-case study explores the salutogenetic potentials and challenges of regenerating urban blue for elderly people in two diverse geographic regions, Ruhr Metropolis (Germany) and Ahmedabad Metropolis (India) by using different methods of arts-, experiential- and preference-based research approaches. The aim is to provide a deeper understanding of current urban blue regeneration policies and elderly people’s urban blue-health relationship, and to determine the spatial match between urban blue space supply and senior citizens’ urban blue space demand. Results will be of use to guide future urban planning to create age-friendly and health-promoting everyday contact to nature within cities.


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Junior Researcher One Health

Department :
ZEF C: Department of Ecology and Natural Resources Management

brueckner1801(at), annabrueckner(at)