The sound of children’s laughter echoing through the playground, couples walking hand in hand along the paved paths of the park, families enjoying a picnic on the grass. You can often see these situations in public space—people enjoying each other’s company without a hint of technology in sight.
Public open spaces are essential for the growth of communities. These spaces allow people to interact with each other because they provide an avenue for physical activities and social gatherings. Being outdoors can also allow people to interact with nature, bridging the growing disconnect with the natural world because of technology.
This is especially true in urban communities. There is an ever-increasing population of inhabitants, congestion of streets, and rising skyscrapers, but lack the public open space necessary for social interactions. It’s safe to say that urbanization comes at a price that humans have to pay.
With limited spaces to use for social interactions, people are more encouraged to stay inside their homes and satiate their need to communicate through online means. Even neighbors living next to each other for a long time no longer need to socialize, which can create a disengaged community.
Public Spaces Can Bring People Together
Public open spaces, such as parks, can enhance the livability of an area and improve the quality of life for the people living in it. This is because open spaces allow the community to come together for recreational or cultural activities that can forge lasting bonds among the residents.
These days, people choose to interact with others through mediated communications like social media applications or real-time video calls instead of in person. Even child’s play has become a virtual interaction in video games and made-up worlds instead of in playgrounds.
Community playgrounds are important places for children because these are where they can meet other kids their age to communicate and establish friendships with. Having the chance to interact with people in the same age group as them can hone their social, cognitive, and emotional skills before they even start school.
Playing with friends after school is an integral part of childhood. Kids make some of their best memories in playgrounds or parks, even if a certain memory involves scratching a knee on a crack in the street in need of asphalt paving repair. It’s almost like a battle scar or a rite of passage.
In the same way that children interact in the playgrounds, their families can also become acquainted because they are connected through the kids. This, in turn, can create meaningful bonds that can grow and expand throughout the community, making it a better place to live in for everyone.
Public Spaces Can Promote a Healthier Lifestyle
When people are given an open space where they can breathe in the fresh air, bathe in the setting sun, and recover from the mental fatigue of work, they might be more inclined to stay there. The presence of parks can encourage people to engage in physical activities, reducing the risk of developing chronic illnesses because of a sedentary lifestyle.
Adults that work 9 to 5 jobs are stuck behind a computer for the better part of their day and then come home to spend their remaining time watching television to relieve their stress. Kids can be the same way after school, in which they spend the rest of their time playing computer or video games.
This culture of dependence on technology for work and entertainment has resulted in a generation of people leading sedentary lifestyles. But if they are allowed to have easier access to parks and other open spaces, they might be motivated to become more active.
Public Spaces Can Lessen the Disconnect from Nature
Having parks within the cities can reduce the noise and air pollution that multitudes of cars, buildings, and factories emit daily. The presence of trees and greenery in an otherwise concrete jungle can be a welcome change of scenery for the inhabitants of the area.
With the onslaught of technology, more people are choosing to stay indoors and on the internet instead of being in the natural world. This can contribute to the growing population of people that are disconnected from nature, who are more vulnerable to physical, mental, and emotional disorders.
People who spend an excessive amount of time in solitude without social interactions or nature are more prone to having anxiety or depression, increased rates of obesity, lower ability to cope with stress, and poorer attention spans.
Nature deficit disorder may not yet be considered a medical issue, but that doesn’t mean that its effects aren’t real. Most people and their respective communities can all benefit physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially from having additional public open spaces in the city.