(NaturalNews) In Great Britain and Japan, playgrounds are being built for seniors. In Manchester, United Kingdom, seniors can use low impact exercise equipment in Dam Head Public Park. In Japan, with birthrates falling and the numbers of senior citizens increasing, underused playgrounds are being renovated for seniors.
In an article titled, "Japan's elderly playgrounds show fun is for everyone," Chika Osaka notes that playgrounds are not just for children. In Japan, with fewer people having children, and nearly 400,000 centenarians, Japan has the world's oldest population. As a result, local governments are disassembling children's playgrounds to convert them to fitness parks for older persons.
Soichiro Saito, a 79 year old who participates in a weekly exercise class at a Tokyo park said, "If I'm at home, I tend to slouch or lie down, but if I come here, I straighten my back." Saito's class uses a climbing frame, walks on balance beams and does stretching exercises under supervision.
The seniors not only enjoy the exercise but also the socialization. Many feel isolated from the community. Some report experiencing a heightened sense of well-being after the exercise.
The cost of an elderly playground may start at 8 million yen ($87,220) including installation and fees for trainers. The Association of Physical Fitness Promotion And Guidance says demand has been growing. Over 15,000 pieces of workout equipment have been installed in parks in Japan, and the number of seniors using the playgrounds daily has doubled.
"No one is ever too old to have fun," said the association's Saijo. "Anyone can try this workout. No experience or preparation is needed. All you have to do is come out here and start working out."
In "Playtime for Grandma: Council opens new playground for the over-60s," Niall Firth reports on visitors using the first playground for seniors in the UK. Named the Older People's Play Area in Dam Head Park, Blackley, users can enjoy gentle exercise for hips, legs and torsos. There are stations for pull-ups, push-ups and pedaling.
Based on a German idea, the park was built by the residents' association. It cost 15,000 British pounds. The park adjoins a children's park so that grandparents and their grandchildren play together. Joan Fitzgerald, chairman of the residents' association, who also uses the park, said, "When we tested it all the people we took in were over 70." She added, "And I have never heard so much laughing! I believe you are never too old to play and this helps you keep fit," Joan said, echoing Saijo.
Peggy Yuill, 74, who was one of the test group, said, "It makes you feel 21 again." The playground also helps the infirm, providing equipment that can be used by someone in a wheelchair who wants to develop upper body strength.
"Many older people aren't exercising enough," Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said. "We are really keen for local authorities to offer a range of accessible and affordable facilities that promote physical activity in later life."
Senior playgrounds exist in England, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and Canada. Besides games like Wii suggested ways of getting healthy outdoor exercise are: walking, biking or playing catch with the grandkids. But an even better exercise might be urging city councils to add playgrounds for the elderly.