Updated: Mar 9, 2020
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” ~ George Bernard Shaw
Older Americans month is celebrated every May. This years theme is, Engage at Every Age. This theme emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities.
There is a growing trend in designing “Multi-generational”, ” Inter-generational” or “Senior” Playgrounds for our aging population. These playgrounds originated in China in 1995 and started popping up in the 2000’s in other countries including Japan, England, Finland, Germany, Canada and Spain. The idea is now catching on in the United States and you can already find a few of these playgrounds in major cities like New York, San Antonio and Miami. Until recently, most senior playgrounds have been built within gated senior communities or associated with senior centers. There is a movement to expand senior playgrounds into community parks. With our “baby boomer” generation coming into their silver years, there is definitely more need and desire for these types of playgrounds all across the United States. As more seniors hear about and try senior playgrounds, hopefully more organizations and Parks departments will take notice and the playgrounds will become more widespread. Today’s seniors are looking to stay active and independent as long as possible. Senior playgrounds can be another way to make exercise more fun, more accessible and more effective for more seniors.
What Exactly Is a Senior Playground?
Senior Playgrounds differ from traditional playgrounds by the choice of equipment and intended use and purpose. They are designed for the older population and usually do not feature traditional equipment that you would find in a children’s playground. But just like playgrounds designed for children, senior playgrounds are meant to be fun!
Traditional Senior Playgrounds are designed specifically for older people featuring low-impact exercise equipment designed to promote flexibility, balance and coordination, as well as promoting community and social interaction. You’ll find equipment that is safer for the joints and emphasizes core muscle strength. You might also find equipment that is designed for use by those with limited mobility or those that are wheelchair bound.
Multi-Generational Playgrounds are a traditional children’s playground with elements geared towards “parallel play” which gives children and grandparents more opportunities to play together side by side. It is becoming more and more common for grandparents to take care of their grandchildren. They often sit on the sidelines while the children are playing at the park. A multi-generational playground helps children and seniors to interact in ways they might not otherwise. It’s also a great opportunity for children to see their senior role model in a different level and this can break the negative stereotype of aging.
What Type of Equipment is Used?
Senior Playground equipment varies and includes activities and pieces that focus on flexibility, strength, balance and aerobic activity. There are also elements included that are geared towards group games, relaxation, meditation and peaceful spaces to socialize comfortably. A Multi-Generational playground will have many familiar playground elements that are popular for children but there are added features that make playing side by side a little easier. You can find many of these pieces below in our Hags, Wabash Valley, Percussion Play, UPC Parks and Miracle Recreation product lines.
How do Playgrounds Benefit Seniors?
Exercise is key to a long, healthy life. A playground designed for seniors offers a chance to enjoy more exercise than simply walking back and forth. Another benefit often overlooked is the social aspect. Seniors can become isolated and loney, causing them to fall into depression. When they visit a senior playground they can interact with other seniors just like them, someone who understands them and can relate to their situation. Add the element of play, and you have the perfect solution for what sometimes ails us as seniors. A well-designed senior or multigenerational playground encourages light-hearted fun. Some things don’t change – playing outside in the open air relieves stress and improves our mood, just as it did when we were kids. Some play equipment is designed for more than one person. Just like in a children’s playground, this fosters socialization, working together, and building friendships in a fun environment. Sometimes just getting outside and having fun does more for your mind, body and soul than just exercise alone.