Having Fun Has No Age Limit!
First off, when I say playground for the elderly, I don’t mean strip clubs and bars, clubs or casinos. I’m talking about the recreational parks that promotes moderate-intensity physical activities targeted at improving muscle strength, motor coordination, balance and flexibility.
These parks feature low-impact equipment such as exercise bikes, cross-trainers, flex runners, flex wheels, sit-up benches, ellipticals, pulldown machines and low-speed treadmills. Although these parks are already a common sight in Asia and Europe but it’s still a foreign concept to some parts of the globe.
Throughout the past century, the life expectancy of humanity has been rising exponentially. As the proportion of elderly people increases dramatically, the need for long-term care for this demographic has become an increasingly urgent policy concern.
The older a person get, the lonelier he becomes. Installing more and better designed playgrounds for the elderly not only augment their physical and well-being also provides them more opportunities to bask in other people’s company and share and create new memories with them.
Healthy People 2020 highlighted the importance of the design of communities and the presence of neighborhood play areas, parks, trails and other public recreational facilities in affecting people’s abilities to reach the recommended 30 minute per day of moderate intensity physical activity.
Intrapersonal factors as well as the social and physical environment affect why a person participate or fail to participate in healthy behaviors such as engaging in a physical activity. Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning at University of California Los Angeles who researched about park use among the elderly across different countries, stated that although culture does play a role, it’s the park location, design and amenities that has the most influence on the park use among senior citizens. She asserted that most of the time older adults don’t feel welcome in parks that are primarily designed for younger populations making it not psychologically accessible to them.
Furthermore, Rafael Merino-Marbán, a professor of physical education at the University of Málaga cited proximity to children’s playgrounds, damaged equipment and fear of being judged as barriers that can deter elderly people from exercising in public playgrounds. “When it comes to fear of being judged, design can help,” Maddock notes. “In China, exercise areas are often located in small groves that are separated from the rest of the park, minimising the number of spectators.”
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According to World Health Organization, lack of exercise, along with poor nutrition and smoking, is among the top three modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases and premature death. Therefore, improving physical activity is becoming a top public health priority. As Merino-Marbán puts it, “If older people exercise more, they are healthier. And that means less costs for public healthcare.”
Recognizing that creating better designed recreational parks can foster well-being of elderly crosses categorical boundaries in both urban planning, health, ecological and social science research, government funding agencies should work collaboratively to help incorporate physical activity among elderly and give them an avenue to socialize to alleviate their loneliness.