Visiting parks and playgrounds with the grandchildren is a wonderful way to exercise. After I've given my grandchildren a few thousand pushes on the swing and supported their weight as they try to swing from bar to bar on the overhead ladder, I've no need to go to the gym. But without a grandchild, I'm stuck with exercising in more mundane ways, as adults at the playground alone tend to be regarded with suspicion.
The Hyde Park Senior Playground in London aims to remedy that situation. Designed to provide a gentle workout for those 60 and older, it features a cross-trainer, sit-up bench, body-flexer, free runner, flex wheel and exercise bike. Plusses? An opportunity to exercise and socialize in a lovely environment with persons of your own generation. Minuses? I can't think of any.
The senior playground followed the creation of a similar fun spot in Manchester in 2008, which was inspired by Seniorenspielplätze in several German towns. In Japan, which has the world's most rapidly aging population, children's playground equipment is being repurposed for the elderly. Some of the impetus for senior playgrounds has come from research done in Finland, which showed that seniors using playground equipment improved their balance, speed and co-ordination after just three months. As a result, the Finnish company Lappset is manufacturing playground equipment that is suitable for all ages.
I can't wait for this idea to take hold in the United States. Although I enjoy yoga, water aerobics and several other types of exercise, hanging with a group of swinging seniors might be even more fun.
Photo © Oli Scarff /Getty