Public Bench Network: Elders Participatory Study

A participatory study for improving the bench network in the Eixample District in Barcelona

Additional information




North America

Location: Eixample District, Barcelona, Spain

Organization: Col·lectiu Punt 6 and City of Barcelona

About the Wise Practice

Through the development of Eixample District’s participatory budgeting project, community elders identified a need for a study on bench placement in neighbourhoods to improve mobility for elders in their everyday activities. The study was in collaboration with the City of Barcelona and the city’s elderly, most of whom were women recruited through seniors community centres providing social services.

  1. Multiple tools were used to understand mobility, including:
    1. – Mapping with each participant to place different services and amenities accessed in their everyday lives to understand their daily patterns and routes
    2. – Neighbourhood walks with participants to see where benches were available and where they were needed. Foldable chairs were brought on the walks and placed where benches were needed but missing so that elders could sit and engage in dialogue.

The study identified characteristics for where benches need to be placed, such as in front of bakeries, health centres, community centres, in relation to intersections, public parks, public transportation infrastructure, and different elements that are used in elders’ daily lives.

  1. The study developed recommendations for benches that includes:
    1. – Different types of seating (for resting, socializing, spaces of care, etc.)
    2. – Placement (in relation to amenities and services, sun direction)
    3. – Materials (wood is more comfortable)
    4. – Ergonomics (arm rests, backrests, etc.)

The original project scope only included the study through the participatory budget. Through the study, elders in the community organized themselves and advocated for the city to implement the recommendations from the study.

Categories & Goals

  1. Transportation
    1. Goal 1: Promote age- and gender-responsive planning and investment for sustainable, safe and accessible urban mobility (NUA 13f, 114; SDG 11.2).
  2. Diversity & Inclusion
    1. Goal 2: Strengthen the interface among stakeholders, offering opportunities for dialogue, including through age- and gender-responsive approaches, with particular attention to contributions from men and women, children and youth, older persons and persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and local communities, refugees and internally displaced persons and migrants, regardless of migration status, and without discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, or socio-economic status (NUA 42,48,148, 155).
    2. Goal 4: Address the social, economic, and spatial implications of aging populations (NUA 62).
  3. Infrastructure & Services
    1. Goal 1: Promote equitable and affordable access to sustainable basic physical and social infrastructure for all, without discrimination, ensuring that these services are responsive to the rights and needs of women and girls and others that are in vulnerable situations (NUA 34, 119; SDG 6.2).
  4. Urban Spaces
    1. Goal 2: Provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities (SDG 11.7).


Since the study was completed, the City of Barcelona has implemented benches that were identified as needed through the report. Relationships between the elders and the project team have continued on since the study.

The study daylighted how a mundane piece of infrastructure is so important in everyday life and in the infrastructure of care.



Lessons Learned

The process was very positive and exemplified how transformative participation, rather than consultation, results in more engaged participation, particularly with groups historically underrepresented in planning processes.

Resources and More Information

  1. Participatory Study Report
  2. Participatory Study Presentation