There is no better way to stay young at heart than to visit the playground with friends.
The proposal of a seniors playground sparked interest among council members during a recent report provided to Tiny council by Christine Greer, chair of the senior advisory committee (SAC).
“We all know that exercise is key to a long, healthy life which age-friendly communities promote,” said Greer in her SAC presentation during last month’s committee of the whole meeting.
“A seniors playground differs from traditional playgrounds in the choice of equipment, and intended use and purpose. These playgrounds are designed specifically for the older population, and do not feature some of the traditional equipment found in children's playgrounds.
“For example, you won't find monkey bars, high slides, or jungle gyms, but rather you will see equipment that is much safer for our joints,” Greer explained.
Seniors playgrounds, as part of outdoor fitness equipment areas, have grown in popularity since their origins at the turn of the millennium. Based out of China in 2005, a push has been made in the past few years by municipal governments worldwide to incorporate low-impact equipment into public green spaces for health benefits on their aged population.
Kinesiotherapy is the prevention or treatment of diseases through movement, and the driving goal behind seniors playgrounds.
Muscle strength, balance, and motor skills are just some of the benefits which seniors could receive from using the equipment. Aimed to be accessible to those with low mobility statuses, much of the equipment is designed with ease-of-use in mind.
Seated pieces include the scale to develop lower limb joints, and the abdominal bench to strengthen abdominal muscles. These differ from standing equipment, such as the steering wheel which strengthens upper limbs and shoulders, and the twist stepper for strengthening the abdomen, back, and leg muscles.
“(SAC) realizes that there is a process to follow when proposing such park amenities and they will begin by consulting with the recreation committee by doing audits of the various parks in Tiny to determine best-suited locations, research the type of equipment to be used and determine if grant monies or sponsorships are available," she explained.
In 2011, the town of Whitby estimated the installation of an outdoor fitness equipment area would cost $65,000, over half of which would be offset by the contributions from their Rotary Club. Equipment in the playground was gauged to have a 10- to 12-year life cycle, similar to other playground structures in the area.
The Town of Wasaga Beach hosts three outdoor fitness equipment areas for its population of roughly 20,000 citizens, although two have reached their end-of-life and are recommended to be removed or replaced in the short-term.
Tim Leitch, director of public works, was impressed by the Wasaga Beach outdoor equipment, and spoke to Greer at the committee of the whole meeting about the possibility of installing a seniors playground.
“Every year we earmark upgrades to our playgrounds,” said Leitch. “We’ve been doing this for the past four years, where we’ve been putting some monies in to upgrade our playgrounds over a year-to-year basis.
“It’s something you can advise your committee, is that if they have anything of interest between now and September when we have to put our final submission in, to let me know and I can put that in as part of the consideration for 2022 capital planning.”
Deputy mayor Steffen Walma asked Greer what her favourite piece of equipment would be.
“I always loved the teeter-totters, or see-saws,” Greer replied with a lift to her voice, “and believe it or not it’s surprising the number of playgrounds you find for the aging population that have the teeter-totters there.”
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca