Playgrounds are usually for children. It helps kids improvetheir motor skills and coordination, as well as for peer interaction to havebetter communication skills and socialization. These recent years, however,playgrounds are also becoming popular among the elderly. Research says seniors playgroundsdon’t only help older people stay fit; it can also help with loneliness andisolation.
Children and the elderly have more in common than other agegroups. For instance, they both need mild and informal exercise, as well ashave interpersonal relationships and peers. Playgrounds serve these needs,although senior parks are way different from children’s playgrounds when itcomes 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, JoanaHughes, “while there are certainly physical health aspects to theplayground, it is also there to nurture social and mental health.”
There are parks for seniors all over the globe. It’s acommon sight; in fact, elderly parks are strewn across Asia and Europe. Chinastarted establishing playgrounds for seniors in 1995, and in just a shortwhile, Japan followed. European countries also embraced the idea after that. Infact, in Spain, senior parks became a huge hit, where Barcelona alone has morethan 300 playgrounds for the elderly.
With an estimated number of elderly in 2050 that will be40-45 percent of the Spanish population, senior parks will be of great help inkeeping the elderly fit and mentally alert.
The US is also establishing senior parks across its estatesbut with a different approach. Although there are now parks strictly forseniors across the states, the aim in the future is to establish moremulti-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 buildplaygrounds for children. The organization embraced as well the idea ofbuilding multi-generational parks across America. Now they have developed morethan 53 parks in the country.
According to an interview from The Huffington Post, thedirector of Client Services at KaBOOM, Sarah Pinksy, said, “play is agreat connector for adults and seniors and the children in their lives. Inaddition to the cognitive and physical benefits of play, it can also reducestress in adults and is proven to help combat toxic stress in kids.”
Furthermore, the CEO of the International Council on ActiveAging, Colin Milner, mentioned with The Wall Street Journal that “theseenvironments can be highly social.”
“There’s something positive and invigorating aboutthat, especially if the children have moved away or a spouse has passedon,” he added.
These senior parks don’t only help old folks interact withothers and reduce the feelings of loneliness; it’s also essential in reducingthe 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: