Playgrounds are usually for children. It helps kids improve their motor skills and coordination, as well as for peer interaction to have better communication skills and socialization. These recent years, however, playgrounds are also becoming popular among the elderly. Research says seniors playgrounds don’t only help older people stay fit; it can also help with loneliness and isolation.
Children and the elderly have more in common than other age groups. For instance, they both need mild and informal exercise, as well as have interpersonal relationships and peers. Playgrounds serve these needs, although senior parks are way different from children’s playgrounds when it comes to equipment.
Senior parks feature low-impact equipment to improve balance, coordination, flexibility, and muscle strength. It typically has exercise bikes, flex runners, cross-trainers, flex wheels, low-speed treadmills, and sit-up benches.
These playgrounds for seniors, however, do not solely serve the purpose of improving physical health. The parks also stand as a place for socialization, for meeting people, share experiences, memories, and a reason for the elderly to get out of their homes; this is an equally important purpose of senior parks, mainly because isolation and loneliness are common to elderly.
According to the spokeswoman of The Royal Parks, Joana Hughes, “while there are certainly physical health aspects to the playground, it is also there to nurture social and mental health.”
There are parks for seniors all over the globe. It’s a common sight; in fact, elderly parks are strewn across Asia and Europe. China started establishing playgrounds for seniors in 1995, and in just a short while, Japan followed. European countries also embraced the idea after that. In fact, in Spain, senior parks became a huge hit, where Barcelona alone has more than 300 playgrounds for the elderly.
With an estimated number of elderly in 2050 that will be 40-45 percent of the Spanish population, senior parks will be of great help in keeping the elderly fit and mentally alert.
The US is also establishing senior parks across its estates but with a different approach. Although there are now parks strictly for seniors across the states, the aim in the future is to establish more multi-generational parks.
These multi-generational parks suit both children and the elderly. These age groups interact well with one another, and the company of kids can help in the mental wellbeing and happiness of older people. So it seems multi-generational parks are a great approach.
KABOOM is a non-profit organization in the US, helping build playgrounds for children. The organization embraced as well the idea of building multi-generational parks across America. Now they have developed more than 53 parks in the country.
According to an interview from The Huffington Post, the director of Client Services at KaBOOM, Sarah Pinksy, said, “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.”
Furthermore, the CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, Colin Milner, mentioned with The Wall Street Journal that “these environments can be highly social.”
“There’s something positive and invigorating about that, especially if the children have moved away or a spouse has passed on,” he added.
These senior parks don’t only help old folks interact with others and reduce the feelings of loneliness; it’s also essential in reducing the rates of hospitalization among the elderly.
In Texas, the City of La Marque, Galveston County, allotted more than $36,000 for building the Carbide Park for elderly citizens in 2014. The park is equipped with fitness steps, cobweb floors, stretching boards, fitness ramps, throttle bar, zig-zag pipe, seated bar grabs, and other equipment to help improve flexibility, balance, and mobility.
According to the county’s commissioner, Stephen Holmes, “as we get to an aging population — those over 65 — you start looking at some of the major causes for hospitalization.”
He added, “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.”
Enjoy this short video on the subject: