They might not be kids anymore, but that does not mean Canberra’s seniors are too old to play.
The ACT’s senior population could be getting its own playground, where age and ability are no limit.
The Government is considering the idea, which is designed to aid exercise and mobility, and is already popular in several countries including the United States, Germany, Spain, England and India.
A dedicated playground would please exercise fanatics like 84-year-old Shirley Fowler, who undertakes three fitness classes each week.
“I’ve got no aches and pains,” she said.
“I have a dream that the Government would pay for a teacher and just have it free in the park and everyone just come.”
Urban planning expert at New South Wales University Nancy Marshall said the playgrounds provided specific equipment designed with lower resistance and range of motion to cater for seniors.
“The activities they do might look different from what you and I might do, but old people do have a joie de vivre about them,” Dr Marshall said.
“A seniors’ playground allows a public, free, accessible spot to have that activity.
“They want to have fun.”
Eli Haski, a specialist trainer who works with people with limited mobility, said keeping active was essential for seniors, especially those who have sat behind a desk most of their lives.
“A lot of older people think that going for a walk in itself is enough exercise for them to maintain their mobility and it’s really not enough,” she said.
“Most older people have osteoarthritis, wear and tear arthritis in their joints, the way to keep that comfortable is to move.”
But she warned the equipment would need to be easy to navigate and explained to users.
“There’s a lot of fear with older people as to new things. It would have to have instructions,” she said.
City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the Government was always looking at new suburban infrastructure.
“The Government is keen to encourage active living for older Canberrans, as we continue to invest in infrastructure upgrades as part of our Age Friendly Suburbs program,” she said.
Not just for the fitness
The playgrounds are also know for their social benefits, which is part of why Ms Fowler and her fellow exercisers go to their weekly classes.
“We have coffee and bickies afterwards, to put on the calories we just worked off,” exerciser Edna O’Dell joked.
Dr Marshall said the outdoor parks were a good way to keep older populations engaged.
“They’re often co-located with cafes and social activities so seniors do feel part of the community,” she said.
“They’re not shunned off to the side, and we treat them with respect and dignity.”
Ms Haski said that was especially important when you did not have a lot of human contact throughout the day.
“Having that little bit of time and building those relationships, meeting new people if they’re new to it, it’s essential for well-being,” she said.
Keeping Australia’s older population fit and health is particularly important as the baby boomers move into the senior age bracket.
By 2040, the number of Australians aged over 65 is predicted to be 6.8 million, or 20 per cent of the entire population.