Parents are advised to take their children to the playground regularly to improve the kids’ motor skills and coordination. They also need fresh air, sunshine, and interaction with their peers, necessary for building socialization and communication skills. However, the idea of playgrounds shouldn’t be limited to kids only. Tender children and elderly adults have more in common than any other age groups. They require interpersonal relationships and peer groups more, and they need mild and informal physical activity to either develop their bodies or improve/maintain fitness. Enter, Elder playgrounds.
Elder playgrounds, or senior parks, can’t be expected to feature, swings, crawl tunnels, and adrenaline-inducing structures. These parks feature low-impact equipment targeted at improving muscle strength, motor coordination, balance and flexibility . Exercise bikes, cross-trainers, flex runners, flex wheels, sit-up benches, and low-speed treadmills are usually available.
These parks do not merely serve the purpose of improving the physical wellbeing of the elderly. Getting out once in a while to meet people, have tea in the park, share memories, and socialize is equally important for senior citizens. Loneliness and isolation is a common problem amongst the elderly population.
“While there are certainly physical health aspects to the playground, it is also there to nurture social and mental health,” said Joana Hughes, spokeswoman for The Royal Parks, a London-based park management agency.
Elder Playgrounds Around the World
Playgrounds for seniors are gradually becoming a common sight around the globe, having spread throughout Asia and Europe in the past couple of decades. In 1995, China blazed the trail when they set up a park to serve as a recreational area for seniors .
Japan immediately took up the idea, followed by several European countries. According to Pri.org, the concept was a huge hit in Spain, where Barcelona alone has about 300 senior parks . The Spanish government is investing a lot to fund these parks, because they believe in them.
Analysts estimate that about 40 to 45 percent of the Spanish population will be 65 by 2050 . Keeping this age group mentally alert and physically fit is a top priority to the government.
Today, the United States is slowly working towards populating her home base with senior-targeted playgrounds. Although there are already parks exclusive to seniors only, the United States is taking a different approach for the most part. They are focused on populating the country with multi-generational parks, suited for both seniors and children.
The company of children is helpful to the mental wellbeing and happiness of the elderly. These age groups interact more affably with one another. In many states around the country, grandparents serve as babysitters while the parents are at work. Building recreational areas to serve both the young and old was a nicely aimed shot.
KaBoom Building Multi-Generational Parks
KaBOOM! is an American non-profit organization that helps communities build playgrounds for children. It’s not a strange thing to find unattractive, abandoned, and isolated parks in various cities around the country. Lack of maintenance would cause usage to progressively dwindle with time. Organizations like KaBOOM! and the Humana foundation would team up to refurbish and rebuild these parks, also providing maintenance funding.
KABOOM! immediately took to the idea of multigenerational parks and presently, they’ve built over 53 such parks across the country to serve hundreds of thousands of children and seniors. The organization reported that in one of their Cleveland-based projects, the seniors formed a fitness club to foster interaction in their new park while the children played.
“Play is a great connector for adults and seniors and the children in their lives. In addition to the cognitive and physical benefits of play, it can also reduce stress in adults and is proven to help combat toxic stress in kids,” said Sarah Pinksy, Director of Client Services at KaBOOM! to The Huffington Post .
“These environments can be highly social,” Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging said to The Wall Street Journal . “There’s something positive and invigorating about that, especially if the children have moved away or a spouse has passed on.”
Essential for reducing hospitalization
Exercise and outdoor activities help reduce the rates of hospitalization and old-age symptoms in elderly persons. If the seniors are encouraged to take up the habit of getting out more frequently, they’d be less prone to requiring medical attention as they get older.
The City of La Marque, Galveston County, Texas, spent over $36,000 in 2014 to equip the Carbide Park for elderly citizens . Equipment available include fitness steps, fitness ramps, cobweb floors, zig-zag pipe, throttle bar, stretching boards, seated bar grabs, and several other machines useful for maintaining mobility, flexibility, and improving balance.
“As we get to an aging population — those over 65 — you start looking at some of the major causes for hospitalization,” said Stephen Holmes, a commissioner in the county. “Much like you see kids gathering at playgrounds, I’m hoping to see the same thing with seniors here, gathering at playgrounds and creating a social aspect for them.”
There should be more of these parks everywhere around the world. The elderly deserve to have recreational spaces to combat loneliness and symptoms associated with inactivity. The company of children is also invaluable to their mental health and overall wellbeing.
Keep Reading: Easy Exercises That Help Keep Your Mind Sharp at Any Age
- “Playgrounds for older adults boost activity, decrease loneliness.” Considerable. J. Menzies. August 14, 2019.
- “The Chinese Park Where Senior Citizens Go Looking for Love.” Narratively. Marjorie Perry. July 18, 2019.
- “Playgrounds are a big hit with Spain’s elder set.” Pri. Gerry Hadden. April 1, 2014.
- “Playgrounds For Seniors Improve Fitness, Reduce Isolation.” The Huffington Post. Ann Brenoff. June 4, 2015.
- “Playgrounds for an Aging Population.” The Wall Street Journal. Beth Howard. November 27, 2016.
- “KaBOOM!” Official website.