Senior Playgrounds – Fun, Sport and Social Club in One

March 9, 2018

Photo by Lance Asper on Unsplash


As the average life span is growing notably longer in the Western countries, the social environment is also adjusting to the changing demographic structure in different ways. It is, of course, easier to start with small things than with Medicare or Social Security improvements. While we are waiting, and hoping for the major government reforms that are long overdue, let’s see what kind of innovations are in place for seniors.

Playgrounds are an international hit

There is no better way to keep any nation healthy than by preventing health problems via promoting physical fitness. That’s why senior playgrounds are popping up all over the world – they are spreading through Asia and Europe, and the United States are not an exception either. These parks offer low-impact exercise equipment that specifically targets seniors. This may include face-to-face leg presses, walking paths with ramps, ping-pong, stationary bikes, plus the mandatory resting area in the shade. Improved balance and flexibility and better muscle tone are the main physical results, with fewer falls as the ultimate goal, along with overall health improvement and greater confidence in movement. Another major positive effect that these playgrounds have, and one that’s just as important as the physical one, is the psychological and social impact. These playgrounds often become a gathering spot for the local senior community, reducing isolation and depressive tendencies. Spain is one of the leaders, with 300 such playgrounds in the greater Barcelona area alone. This comes as no surprise, since the Spanish population is aging rapidly, and its retired segment is projected to reach up to 45% by 2050.

The US approach to senior playgrounds is somewhat different from that adopted by the rest of the world, and it seems that there’s an extra added bonus in this approach. It entails constructing them in a way that attempts to unite different generations. Equipment for children and seniors is placed on the same land plots, making it a place for both intra- and multigenerational connections. And it’s a very efficient tactic, confirmed by the fact that the facilities are in constant use. It’s an excellent way for grandparents to spend leisure time with their grandchildren in a space that allows everyone to be actively enjoying themselves.


Photo by shotinraww on Unsplash

One more successful social experiment


Another experiment that works along the same lines, and is designed to counteract loneliness and isolation, stimulating the nursing care facility residents both mentally and emotionally, was implemented at the Mount St. Vincent Intergenerational Learning Center in Seattle. In 1991, a preschool was established on the nursing home premises, creating synergy between generations and providing apparent positive effects for both sides. Almost 40 years of its existence prove that this experiment has a tremendous impact on both seniors and children.

For seniors, social interactions, whether with peers or with people of other ages, have long ago been linked by scientists to a reduced risk of depression and mental decline, as well as a to an overall better state of health. For children, there are also obvious benefits, such as developing compassion and tolerance for disability and old age, along with the positive emotional bonds.

Preschool/nursing home combinations are not common, but there is a detectable number of them throughout Japan, Canada and the United States. One of the significant issues that may be deterring them from becoming the next fad are the need to control the environment rather closely, since not all the senior nursing home residents are equally willing or capable of dealing with small children. Otherwise, this would be a purely win-win situation for everyone.

Playgrounds for the elderly, on the other hand, are easier to implement and have fewer potential issues, so they are a definite trend, and are bound to spread further. As Bernard Shaw had put it perfectly, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.