I recently came across a Huffington Post article about a fantastic new concept for elderly peoples’ fitness… playgrounds! Apparently communities in Europe and Asia have begun to open playgrounds specifically designed with seniors in mind – meaning low-impact exercise equipment – and the trend has come to the U.S.
Playgrounds for seniors and parks that are designed for multi-generational consumers provide a fun, playful way to exercise important areas such as coordination and range of motion.
The low-impact equipment at these playgrounds is engineered to promote balance and flexibility – two important things that seniors consistently struggle to maintain or improve. Additionally (as you might expect), there are significant mental and social benefits to the playgrounds for seniors, as the parks often become community-gathering spots.
In partnership with the Humana Foundation, a company called KaBOOM! has constructed more than 50 multi-generational playgrounds across the U.S., serving both the elderly and the young. “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,” said Sarah Pinsky, KaBOOM!’s Director of Client Services.
Some of the most common equipment found at playgrounds for seniors include static or recumbent bicycles, striders, leg press machines, dexterity games, elliptical machines, steps, body flexors and ramped walking paths. “The best installations help to improve balance and minimize the risk of falls, build muscle strength and tone, extend your range of motion, and improve your manual dexterity,” noted a Senior Planet article about playgrounds for seniors.
A 2004 study of these playgrounds for seniors found that after three months of regular use (90 minutes per week) seniors aged 65 to 81 experienced improved balance, coordination and speed. They also were felt confident and empowered when faced with physical obstacles.
Would you exercise and play at a senior playground or multi-generational park in your neighborhood?
Featured photo source: SeniorPlanet.org.