When someone mentions a park or recreation facility, most think of grass, swings, sports fields, and playgrounds. What is a “playground” though and who is it for? Is it a teeter totter or swing set? Is it a splash pad and water slide? Or could it be a sunroom with a Ping-Pong table and yoga mats? The answer is yes, yes, YES.
We are not surprised by a playground being built or refurbished for school-age children, but what about the senior population? With ever-changing demographics and longevity, American seniors are living longer, healthier, and more active lives. Where is their playground?
Many years ago, “senior” carried a connotation of one being well over the age of 55. The ideology was that seniors just wanted to relax and watch television with a bingo game here and there. Limited mobility, slow and easy activities, and peace and quiet were the “needs” of the senior community. This is not the case anymore and recreational facilities need to address this and soon. Seniors, as well as youngsters enjoy quiet time here and there. And who doesn’t love to win at bingo? But, today’s seniors are looking for dance, yoga, fitness, ping pong, pilates, Zumba, and many more opportunities to be active and involved. The traditional quiet room with a television on 8 hours a day is not what today’s seniors need or want. Recreational facilities that were built for this purpose no longer meet the challenge of today’s seniors. Up-and-coming generations of seniors are vibrant, on the move, and older than ever before.
No longer does being 84 mean sitting in a wheelchair and watching life pass you by. Retirement is no longer just a few golden years but, now, a few golden decades. Today’s seniors are making their lives count and living life to the fullest. Recreation providers need to update their facilities and programs to meet this new energetic and purposeful generation before they pass us by.
Kari Haseltine is the Facility Coordinator for the Canoga Park Senior Citizens’ Center, City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks in California. Reach her at email@example.com.