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Are senior playgrounds the future of active aging?

July 20, 2012

From hiking to hitting the gym, seniors look for many different ways to stay active, and one of the most recent options is somewhat unusual. So-called "senior playgrounds" have been popping up and were just given the stamp of approval from the International Council on Active Aging, The Province reports.

The organization endorsed the concept at its recent meeting and said that it looks to be a good way to encourage a healthy lifestyle for seniors. At the heart of the push for such playgrounds is the thought that providing a more youthful, fun exercise outlet will spur an increase in retirees staying active as they age.

"I think this concept will become vital," Colin Milner, the Active Aging council's CEO, told the newspaper. "It's about giving yourself permission to have fun instead of thinking of it as rigorous exercise."

Although playgrounds are universally accepted as the domain of the young, there's no reason to think they couldn't have the same impact on older adults. Of course, there are some differences between senior-specific playgrounds and traditional models. Rowers, air walkers and other fitness-like equipment replace swing sets and slides.

The desire for active aging in unique ways is reflected through other means as well. Chiefly, there has been an increase in the number of older adults turning to team sports as a way to exercise. For seniors playing competitive sports, it's about much more than exercise.

"Competition to me is like a point on a pencil," Dave Petzel, 64, told the Detroit Free Press. "It sharpens your wit; it places you on a new ground of being."

Whatever route seniors take, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults over 65 get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.