Are You Still Young at Heart? By Robin Trimingham
When I was young I used to beg my mother to take me to the neighbourhood park to play on the swings. To me, there was nothing better than the heart pounding exhilaration of being pushed higher and higher into the sky and then vaulting myself into space before landing in the soft sand below.
For an extra rush, I would occasionally convince her to drive me to another park about five minutes further away where the swing set was even larger and leaping from the seat required actual courage because the landing area was composed of wood chips which scattered beneath me as I touched down resulting in more than one scraped knee before I got the hang of it.
Fun times indeed.
Like most adults, I thought those days were long behind me until a doctor friend of mine happened to mention that several large urban centers around the world are starting to install purpose built outdoor gyms and play areas for the elderly to inspire fitness and wellbeing.
These senior playgrounds are equally popular in London, Bangkok, Copenhagen, Barcelona (where there are over 300 of these special parks) and Beijing proving that regardless of your cultural heritage or upbringing, you are never too old to play. Still other communities are introducing multi-generational playgrounds so that grandparents and grandchildren can exercise together to improve core strength, flexibility, and balance.
The slides are gone, but purpose built low impact exercise equipment is being introduced to encourage gentle exercise of the hips, legs, and torso, as well as some much-needed socialization and a good laugh.
Remember how easy it was to strike up a conversation with a strange kid on the jungle gym? Names were on a need to know basis provided the line at the base of the slide kept moving.
Apparently, the rules of engagement haven’t changed a bit, enabling seniors who are isolated at home and would normally never strike up a conversation with a stranger at the mall or on a public bus, to use the opportunity to be silly together dust off their social skills.
As aging populations swell in densely populated areas, an increasing number of urban planners are investigating this popular concept because alert and healthy seniors have better balance, fewer falls and ultimately less expensive healthcare claims.
To learn more about introducing a senior-friendly play area to your community check out AAA State of Play.
By Robin Trimingham