Crime, perceived insecurity and the walking behaviours of older people: a comparative study in Chile and Mexico

Project Leader: Giovanni Vecchio
Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile.


  • Alejandro Pérez-Duarte Fernández, Dr. Gabriela Ochoa Covarrubias, ITESO, Universidad Jesauita de Guadalajara, Jalisco, México
  • Alejandra Luneke, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Santiago, Chile


Previously localised in Global North countries, population ageing is rapidly involving also the Global South. For older people, the possibility of getting out of the house and walking in one’s neighbourhood to access basic opportunities is crucial for maintaining autonomy and quality of life, as well as for ageing healthily. However, in Latin American cities, the incidence of crime and the perceived insecurity may be a threat to walking. Despite “fear gaps” between crime perception and occurrence, subjective and objective dimensions related to crime can negatively influence the willingness to leave the house and to walk. However, this issue has received less attention than safety (related, for example, to accidents).

The project examines to what extent the occurrence of crime and perceived insecurity influence the possibility and the decision of older people to walk, comparing the cities of Santiago, Chile and Guadalajara, Mexico. Focusing on two cities comparable in population and size but with different crime rates, we propose a quantitative spatial analysis of the relationship between the concentration of older people, walking access to local opportunities, and crime incidence. Then, in each city, we select two neighbourhoods with a similar presence of older inhabitants and offered services, but different crime incidence. Through interviews and mapping, we examine older people’s walking practices, perceptions, and the influence of perceived (in)security.

Perceived insecurity may condition older people’s walking behaviour, affecting their autonomy and negatively conditioning the physical and psychological wellbeing associated with walking. The project intends to compare walking, crime and insecurity perception in relation to older people in two cities and to define operational guidelines to improve the security of walking for them, providing results that can be significant for the promotion of walking in other Latin American settings.