Regularly taking our kids to the playground early on in life rapidly improves their motor skills and coordination.
With some good old fashioned fresh air, sunshine, and meaningful interaction with their peers and family, social play can be paramount in building social and communication skills.
But why is the idea of a playground only limited to children?
Young children and our senior citizens have way more in common than you may think, certainly more in common than any other age group. They both need personal and social relationships more, and they both need easy, relaxed physical activity to develop their bodies and maintain fitness.
You’re obviously not going to find any swings, slides, tunnels or adrenaline-inducing structures in these elderly parks. The parks feature soft-impact equipment that targets improving motor coordination, strength, flexibility and balance. The parks consist mainly of things that you’d normally find at a gym; cross-trainers, bikes, flex runners, flex wheels, sit-up benches, and low-impact treadmills are the order of the day.
These parks are not just all about improving the physical well-being of the elderly. Isolation and loneliness are common problems among the elderly so having the chance to get out once in a while and meet new people, socialize in the park and share memories, is vitally important for them.
Check it out below:
Joana Hughes, spokeswoman for The Royal Parks, a London-based park management agency stated:
“While there are certainly physical health aspects to the playground, it is also there to nurture social and mental health,”
Senior Parks Across the World
Senior Playgrounds are now becoming a common sight around the world, and in the last 20 years, they’ve spread throughout Asia and Europe. China paved the way in 1995 and set up a park to serve as a recreational area for seniors.
Several European countries immediately followed suit and the concept was a huge hit in Spain. Over 300 new senior parks were created in Barcelona according to Pri.org. The Spanish government continues to invest vasts amount of money into these parks, because they believe so strongly in them.
The United States has taken a slightly novel approach. Although senior-only parks already exist, the US government is focused on rolling out multi-generational parks, suited for both seniors and younger kids.
It is said that the being in the company of children helps boost mental wellbeing and happiness in elderly people.
KaBOOM! is an American non-profit organization that aims to help communities build playgrounds for children. Organizations like KaBOOM! and the Humana foundation refurbish and rebuild these parks and provide maintenance funding.
KABOOM! have now built over 53 of these parks across the country serving hundreds of thousands of both children and seniors.
They noted that in a Cleveland-based project, the elders had formed a fitness club to increase their social interaction in their new park while the children played.
Speaking to HuffPost, Sarah Pinksy, Director of Client Services at KaBOOM! 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,”
Exercise Reduces Hospitalization
Exercise and outdoor activities help reduce the rates of hospitalization and old-age related symptoms in elderly people. If they are encouraged to be active and get out more frequently, then they’d be less prone to needing medical attention as the grow older.
Stephen Holmes, a commissioner in the county said:
“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 lots more of these parks everywhere around the world. The elderly deserve to have recreational spaces to combat loneliness and the symptoms associated with inactivity.