Saturday, September 19, 2015

Playgrounds for Seniors, an idea whose time has come

I read about this concept and thought what an interesting idea. We all love to play and having our own playground makes a great deal of sense to me. Again this shows me that Boomers are redefining ageing.

Although they're already constructed on four continents, so-called "playgrounds for seniors" are making news as a potential worldwide trend.

A strange-but-true story can be hard to resist, and one such story emanating from England last spring proved irresistible to many news organizations, bloggers and readers. It involved the opening of London's first outdoor playground for senior citizens, located in the city's popular Hyde Park, and the story went viral although its subject was neither completely accurate - it is more fitness park than playground - nor all that strange. England had already opened its first playground for seniors (in Manchester in 2008), an event that hardly penetrated the world's collective consciousness. 

Hyde Park Senior Playground eventually made 500 newspapers, but as the references to "swinging London" multiplied in print and online (despite no swings installed), it was easy to miss the wider story. Over the past six years, senior playgrounds have been constructed on at least four continents and are becoming more abundant - even in the United States, where they may well be about to bust out of the confines of senior living facilities.

Closer to home, the province of British Columbia has spent $2 million on outdoor playgrounds for older adults, Milner says. But these facilities are "way more prevalent in the United States than anywhere else," he adds, even if senior playgrounds in the U.S. have been funded and developed almost exclusively by retirement communities, with those under the purview of municipal agencies located at senior centres rather than in public parks.

Wellness playgrounds for elders take the concept of a traditional indoor exercise room and move it outdoors. Wellness playgrounds for elders include:
  • Swings and see-saws.
  • Walking paths, with ramps, steps, arches, and reflexology sections.
  • Multi-person, face-to-face exercise equipment focused on balance, muscle tone cardiovascular activity, fine motor skills, and range of motion.
  • Game tables for cards, board games, ping-pong, and jacks.
  • Basketball hoops, bocce, horseshoes, or other tossing games.
  • Touch-screen computers with games for brain exercise and dexterity.
  • Conversational nooks and peaceful seating.
  • Attractive small and large shelters.
  • Raised and in-ground gardens.
  • Water features.
  • Acoustic spaces for playing and listening to music and readings.
  • Murals and sculptures.
  • Thoughtful use of colour.
Must Have Play's playgrounds for elders encourage social interaction by providing:
  • Safe, attractive and peaceful gardens, with shelters, conversational seating nooks, and wide walking paths.
  • Activity equipment designed for face-to-face usage.
  • Games like chess, cards, bocce, and ping-pong.
  • Spaces for yoga or tai chi.
  • Acoustic performance spaces for both observing and performing.
Regular exercise for elders may help to:
  • Prevent falls and fractures.
  • Reduce the risk of strokes, heart disease, and some cancers.
  • Lessen cognitive decline.
  • Control obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Must Have Play provides consultations for designing and building wellness playgroundsfor retirement communities, assisted living and other senior communities. The organization provides 3D digital models of the design, cost estimates, builders, contractors, and consultants such as parks departments, town planners etc.

Wellness playgrounds for elders are also known in other parts of the world as Nursing Care Prevention Parks, Senior Citizens' Playgrounds, or Older People's Play Areas. Wellness playground for elders can be found in China, Japan, Finland, Germany, Canada, England and the United States.

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