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Originally published January 2 2011

Playgrounds for seniors go worldwide

by M.Thornley

(NaturalNews) Last spring the UK made news by opening the first senior playground in London's Hyde Park. The new Hyde Park playground has six pieces of equipment including a stationary bicycle, a cross-trainer and a sit-up bench. Since then new playgrounds have sprung up on four continents.

When they exercise outdoors, seniors say, they laugh. That's the first thing that happens. They socialize and swap recipes. They benefit from stronger bodies, the chance to meet others, and, especially, the laughter.

In 2008, the first playground for people over 60 was opened in Dam Head Park, Manchester, United Kingdom. The park featured low impact exercise equipment designed to help older people improve their balance and flexibility. Seniors often do not use gyms because they can't afford the fees or they do not feel comfortable. They don't like having to adjust the machines, and they might find the surround sound music, with young people vigorously pumping iron, intimidating.

But exercise is important for seniors. Active seniors are more likely to remain independent. Exercise promotes good balance and flexibility and reduces overall health problems.

The new playground equipment, designed for seniors, can be used by a pair in tandem, or singly. Each piece has detailed instructions for use. They are easy to use and focus on cardiovascular exercise, core strength and balance.

Actually, the concept of senior playgrounds did not originate in the UK. China, Japan and Finland have long encouraged generational exercise. In Japan, which has some of the longest-lived people in the world, the city of Tokyo opened Nursing Care Prevention Parks in 2004 which featured work stations and colorful equipment such as jungle gyms, balance beams and stretch apparatus.

Such facilities also existed in the United States but were often located at senior centers or retirement communities rather than public parks. In the 70s, in the U.S. outdoor parks featured walks with exercise stations for anyone to use.

That concept was based on a perceived preference for walking. Now, however, the trend is toward working out. With the first wave of Boomers turning 64, and the cost of senior playgrounds comparing favorably with the cost of indoor equipment and facilities, an expansion of senior playgrounds is imminent in U.S. parks.


About the author

M. Thornley enjoys walking, writing and pursuing a raw vegan diet and lifestyle.

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