Playgrounds for seniors — Urban interventions

by Yule Heibel on November 10, 2007

I previously heard of playgrounds for the elderly through various newspaper articles, but Tokyo-based Ping Magazine has a beautiful blog entry that includes many pictures, to give us an idea of what the gear actually looks like. Surf over to Playgrounds For The Elderly:Fit In An Aging Society.

Ping Magazine‘s entry includes not just pictures, but also a terrific interview with Mr. Karakawa of the Takao Corporation, which makes these playgrounds. Here are some excerpts of Karakawa’s answers, beginning with some background information:

In 2004, the Chiyoda Ward commissioned us to build an experimental model community centre to promote exercise for the elderly and decrease dependence on nursing care. The Chiyoda Ward had already started some programs conducted indoors, in which the elderly do light tactile exercise to prevent senility. However, they didn’t have any means for them to exercise outdoors, so they asked us to construct something to be used in a park.


We have been making what we call healthy playgrounds with an emphasis on exercise for decades. However, our new concept with this equipment is nursing care prevention playgrounds. We took our previous designs for equipment to help sit-ups and push-ups and modified them for light exercise especially for the elderly.


A year after our first project in Nishi-Kanda Park, we installed nursing care prevention gear at another park in the ward. At that time, professors from the nearby Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music and residence of Chiyoda Ward helped us with what colours for the equipment would suite best the park. They also advised on how to better name the equipment. As in our first project, we gave the gear English names, such as “stretch-step.” But this time we used simple Japanese names that the elderly can understand more easily .

Sounds like a win-win for the users and for the community as a whole.

Here in Victoria, the city is renovating a sinkhole at a near-downtown intersection. View Street, the East-West axis, would lend itself beautifully to a linear park. In fact, it could have been a perfect site for this sort of “senior playground” equipment, since the area already has numerous condos and is set to densify even more in the next few years. I also wrote about how the area could have been reconstructed in accordance with biophilic design principles in the August 2007 issue of FOCUS Magazine (see Biophilic Design — Taking Love to the Streets, PDF).

Unfortunately, the city will re-create a conventional, paved intersection, and the planned beautification of the streets (View and Vancouver Streets) probably won’t include fitness equipment for the not-so-limber. We’ll get nicely paved sidewalks and prettier lamp-posts, perhaps, but wouldn’t an obstacle course or maybe a climbing structure for seniors have been a fascinating urban intervention?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

maria November 11, 2007 at 12:32 pm

What a great idea — from so many angles, starting with the physical to the mental — not to mention the social!

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