The shape of things to come: adult playgrounds

By Sally Abrahms

Caregivers: There’s a fitness movement afoot that may make you jump for joy. In the last year, adult outdoor playgrounds with low impact-exercise equipment have been springing up around the country.

Some are incorporated into kiddie playgrounds, known as “multigenerational playgrounds.” Others are near the children’s area, while still others are separate older adult areas (“senior playgrounds”).

Designers have skipped the swings in favor of balance beams, sit-up and chin-up bars, cross trainers, stationery exercise bikes, fitness stations and walking paths.

What does that have to do with caregivers? You can take your grandkids and both of you can get health benefits. Or, go with your parent, relative, spouse, or friend. While they’re on the body flexer, you can be doing pushups! Off caregiving duty? Walk (good move!) to the playground and work on boosting your muscle strength, balance, stability, and range of motion.

One reason these playgrounds are gaining ground is because exercise is good for the body and the brain. Studies show that physical exercise may help ward off, or at least, mitigate, obesity, depression, diabetes, heart disease and memory loss.

Grown-up playgrounds are also an antidote to isolation. Physicians and social scientists say that too much aloneness can lead to loneliness, depression, and poor physical health. On the other hand, social interaction—getting out and being with people—has positive health benefits.

The healthcare company Humana and the non-profit KaBOOM! have partnered to construct a slew of multigenerational playgrounds. Since last year, they have built them in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, FL, Seattle, WA, New Orleans, LA, Greensboro, C, Albuquerque, NM, Tucson, AZ, Nashville, TN, San Antonio, TX, Alburnett, IA and Thermal, CA.

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