Playgrounds for Older Adults

         Do you remember recess as kid? Do you remember the feeling of being outside and being active with your friends? With new technological innovations, older adults can experience those feelings all over again in a fun new way! Playgrounds designed specifically for aging residents have popped up in England, Finland, Germany and throughout Asia. But the idea is just now taking off in the U.S.The parks feature low-impact exercise equipment such as elliptical machines, static bikes, and body flexors. These machines are designed to promote balance and flexibility. Playgrounds constructed specifically for seniors allow them to stay active; the benefits of low-impact exercise include reducing health risks such as falls.

         The Humana Foundation is a leader in this area – their goal is to build multigenerational playgrounds throughout the U.S. Eleven have been built since last year; another 16 are in the works. The intention is to provide a place where aging adults can participate alongside their children or grandchildren – grandparents will have the opportunity to be active with their families, using equipment designed with their needs in  mind. Senior playgrounds have been established in Springfield Lake in Springfield Township,Ohio; in the city of LaMarque in Galveston County, Texas; in Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx, NY; and in multiple parks in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. In the last two years, there has also been some discussion about creating a senior playground in Ithaca, NY. Michael Cohen of Ithaca has 21 years experience building children’s playgrounds and decided to set up his own company, Must Have Play, (www.musthaveplay.com). Cohen would like to have low-intensity workout stations, designed to work the upper body and lower body. The stations would face each other or be side-by-side, so social interaction is encouraged. Can you imagine what your local park would look like if senior exercise equipment was installed? Would you use it? If you have visited any of the parks mentioned here, please comment below, and tell us what you thought!

By Julia Conlan