I had the good fortune of living in China for a short time and every day, at about four o’clock, witnessed the most amazing thing.
Whether they had been playing mahjong, shopping in the market or sitting by the river, the older people of Chonqing sprang into action and invaded the parks. Some had their grandkids with them, all had jars of tea, which they set on the ground as they “played” with the park equipment.
For these were no ordinary park. These were parks designed specifically to keep older people moving. They had platforms to stand on a twist from side to side, elliptical machines, low beams for balance practice and benches at various heights for one to stretch with.
I can tell you, it’s a pretty humbling experience seeing a 90-year-old Chinese woman with steely grey hair swing her leg onto a shoulder-height bar and casually sipping her tea.
In a country like China, where age is still respected culturally, providing playgrounds for older people makes perfect sense. And slowly, the trend is spreading around the world.
As this short video shows, senior citz in Spain enjoy a similar playground, which, in addition to getting people moving, promotes friendship and happiness.
A new project in the US is taking the idea further by building multi-generational parks rather than those designed exclusively for seniors.
Not for Profit organisation KaBOOM! has built 53 multigenerational playgrounds across America that have served 135,471 kids and 61,500 seniors.
Sarah Pinsky, Director of Client Services at KaBOOM! told The Huffington Post, “Play is a great connector for adults and seniors and the children in their lives. In addition to the cognitive and physical benefits of play, it can also reduce stress in adults and is proven to help combat toxic stress in kids.”
Here in Australia, we have exercise parks scattered here and there, but many can be impractical – or even dangerous – for kids.
Tell us, would you like to see something like this built in your neighbourhood? Or do you already have a great park?