When my son was home on a recent vacation, we went for a walk through a nearby park. Along the way, we stopped to take a little break by a neighborhood playground. It was filled with the laughter and activity of children enjoying a gorgeous summer day. I commented to my son that I wish I could become a child again and play on the playground.
Be careful what you wish for! In the not too distant future I just might be playing on a playground, only this one will be specially designed for adults.
While the United States is slowly embracing the idea, adult playgrounds have existed in China, Japan, and some European countries for many years. Here are several creative concepts from around the world:
St. Joseph’s Home recently opened the nation’s first multi-generational playground located on a nursing home campus. This allows the facility’s 400 residents to play right alongside kids from the onsite childcare center. Unique features include a merry-go-round that accommodates wheelchairs.
With Japan’s aging population and the world’s longest life expectancy, children’s playgrounds are actually being torn down and transformed into “nursing care prevention parks”. Besides having fun, seniors also attend government-sponsored fitness classes at the playgrounds.
As a result of enthusiasm for the 2008 Bejing Olympics, the Chinese government built several thousand outdoor fitness centers. The equipment is similar to that of indoor fitness gyms that are too expensive for most people to afford.
Spain boasts several hundred exercise parks built for adults. Not only do these parks benefit the body, but some of the stations feature games that exercise the mind.
Here most adult playgrounds are placed next to children’s playgrounds. This allows parents or grandparents to exercise while keeping an eye on their children. A fascinating feature in England is the “green energy gym” where you can generate energy to power nearby lights while you exercise.
Several senior care centers in the Netherlands include interactive playgrounds. These systems offer a variety of games that exercise the body and the mind. The games are also fun for children, so residents enjoy playing the games when grandchildren visit.
The benefits of adult playgrounds for seniors are numerous:
- Adult playgrounds often focus on balance and flexibility which are so important in preventing falls. They also encourage low-impact joint motion to help seniors maintain self-care abilities.
- The opportunity to be outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air motivates people to exercise.
- Multi-generational playgrounds provide positive interaction between children and seniors.
- The outdoor playgrounds are free.
- Adult playgrounds encourage socialization for seniors who might otherwise stay alone indoors.
- Outdoor playgrounds may be less intimidating than indoor gyms that focus on buff bodies.
- Children have the opportunity to see adults as positive role models who care about their health.
- They’re just plain fun!
Please take a look at this video that shows an example of an adult playground. Doesn’t it look like fun?
I’m not aware of nursing homes in the United States that feature multi-generational outdoor playgrounds. If you know of any, please let me know in the comment section.