At the Midway Safe Harbor Center playground northeast of Orlando, Fla., revelers climb the bright orange staircase, wiggle on wobble boards and swivel in spinning seats. Getting to behave like children is quite a selling point here, considering that many using this new playground haven't been called "kid" in decades.
See also: Exercise, the real fountain of youth.
Welcome to the multigenerational playground, where children's slides and monkey bars sit beside equipment specifically designed to be used by older adults.
On weekends, Dorothy Jackson, 73, of Midway, Fla., takes a break from her volunteer work at the adjacent community center to watch her 6- and 9-year-old great-grandchildren swing, slide and climb. She does this while twirling on a spinning seat or giving her arms a workout.
"I go out on the playground every day," says the great-grandmother of 15, who raised three of her grandchildren. "In order not to get sick you have to keep the body up, and this playground helps me do it."
No two spaces look the same. Each is designed with input from the community. At the Florida playground, a group of about 25 people, including older adults from Midway Safe Harbor's adult enrichment and foster grandparent programs and children from a local boys and girls club, participated in a "design day." The adults wanted exercise equipment that targets range of motion, muscle strength, stability and balance, says Midway Safe Harbor Center administrator Brenda Knight — and that is what they received. Each of the three exercise stations incorporates yoga moves to build flexibility and stability. A staircase helps work out creaky knees, and strength exercises illustrated on the equipment work on the whole body.
For Constance Anderson, 60, the playground eliminates the old excuse of "I really don't have the time to go and exercise myself because I've got to watch these kids." Instead of sitting her 6-year-old grandson in front of the TV while she putters around the house, Anderson opts for outside. "I get my exercise, and the kids get theirs, too."
The Florida space was constructed during a playground building blitz that began in fall 2011 and will finish this spring. The project is part of a multigenerational initiative by the health insurer Humana and KaBOOM!, a nonprofit that aims to build a playground within walking distance of every child's home. By spring, $100,000 play spaces will be in or near nine other U.S. cities — San Antonio; Seattle; New Orleans; Greensboro, N.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Tucson, Ariz.; Nashville, Tenn.; Thermal, Calif.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.