Why Social Infrastructure Matters

The pandemic highlighted the importance of parks and public spaces for maintaining both the physical and mental health of urban residents.

1 minute read

November 19, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

People enjoying a sunny day on a green lawn with pink lawn chairs and colorful bird mural in background in Boston, Massachusetts.

ingusk / Adobe Stock

Update November 20, 2023: The source article was incorrectly attributed to Scot Lehigh. the author of the article is Aaron Greiner.

Writing in The Boston Globe, Aaron Greiner argues that “Public spaces, which served as a lifeline for people during the pandemic, can be more thoughtfully designed to better foster human connection and combat loneliness.”

As Greiner points out, “A growing body of research, including a 2021 study that found that frequent visits to green spaces decreased people’s use of depression medication, points to the many ways a dose of public space can improve people’s well-being.” For Greiner, this means planners and city leaders must consciously build places that foster wellbeing and “invite people to stop, stay, and connect.” Greiner calls places that do this successfully—“make people feel welcome, represented, and connected to their neighborhoods, and this, in turn, builds social connections between visitors”—‘sticky.’ 

Greiner adds that “Social infrastructure, like physical infrastructure, requires upkeep, investment, and adaptation”—and should be similarly prioritized by cities long after the pandemic.

Friday, November 17, 2023 in The Boston Globe

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