San Diego’s First Intergenerational Playground Opens at St. Paul’s Plaza

IMG_4735St. Paul’s Plaza in Chula Vista has installed an activity center geared for both adults and children .  This play structure is the first of its kind in San Diego. It is an outdoor activity center focused on providing safe and fun exercise for older adults, with the addition of play equipment for children.

Senior citizen playgrounds are growing in popularity worldwide. Originally created in China, they are playgrounds featuring various stations that have equipment designed for use by the elderly. As science continues to show the correlation between exercise, health, and fitness and the importance of these to senior citizens, playgrounds for the elderly are in high demand. Many playgrounds for senior citizens are operated by towns and cities and are incorporated into public parks. Not only are senior citizen playgrounds a great way for the elderly to exercise, but they are a great way to have fun.

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What is a Senior Citizen Playground?

Senior citizen playgrounds differ from traditional playgrounds in the choice of equipment and intended use and purpose. These playgrounds are designed specifically for the older adults and do not highlight some of the normal equipment found in kid’s playgrounds. Instead you’ll find equipment that is safer for the older joints. A senior adult playground emphasizes core muscle strength and focuses on activities such as walking, building strength, and increasing flexibility. A percentage of equipment is designed for use by those with limited mobility or those who are in a wheelchair. However, some traditional items, such as swings or a see-saw, serve dual purpose.

The first senior citizen playground is believed to have been built in China in 1995. China adopted a national law that resulted in a nationwide physical fitness program. This program wasn’t geared toward youth but included elderly citizens. After the law was put into effect, parks across China incorporated equipment all citizens could use. As more people visited China from other countries and saw the equipment and increased well-being of China’s seniors, they incorporated similar practices in their communities. In 2003, Finland designed a playground specifically for seniors and performed a scientific study to measure the results. By 2004, similar parks were established throughout Japan. They are referred to as Nursing Care Prevention Parks. Several years later, a playground for the elderly was established in Berlin, Germany. Parks were later built in Canada and England and then in the United States. Today, senior citizen playgrounds are found worldwide.

What Type of Equipment is Used?

Playground equipment for the elderly varies and includes activities that focus on flexibility, keeping muscle strength, and encouraging aerobic activity. They often include stationary bicycles, cross-trainers, sit-up machines, treadmills, and activities that encourage gentle strengthening and flexibility. As many senior adults don’t have the budget for a gym membership, having access to free equipment in a senior playground offers a number of benefits.

How Do They Benefit Seniors?

Exercise is key to a long, healthy life. While exercise and proper diet are components of preventative medicine, it is never too late to start getting in shape. Always speak to your health care provider and ensure you are physically able to perform the tasks. A playground designed for senior citizens offers a chance to enjoy more exercise than simply walking back and forth. A variety of equipment encourages activity and mobility without risking boredom. Using different equipment also tones different muscle groups. Even though the equipment is designed to be less strenuous, it is still possible to overexert yourself. This is especially true if you are using a muscle group that hasn’t been exercised for a long time. By exercising at a senior citizen playground, you are in full control of how much you do. You aren’t paying anyone for a membership, nor do you need to worry about getting your money’s worth. You are free to come and go as you please and can use the equipment of your choosing. The variety helps ensure that you get a well-rounded workout.

There is another benefit to using senior citizen playgrounds that is often overlooked: the social aspect. Seniors can become isolated and lonely, causing them to fall into depression. By visiting a senior citizen playground, you can interact with others who understand and relate to your situation. Building friendships can be easier on the playground. Some equipment is designed for more than one person, and this fosters socialization, working together, and building friendships in a fun atmosphere. Simply getting outside and having fun while making new friends is just as healthy as exercising muscles, building stamina, and increasing flexibility.