AARP members and residents of the St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay area in Florida on Wednesday got their first look at a new fitness park, one of many that AARP plans to build over the next three years as part of a celebration of the organization's 60th anniversary.
"We're thrilled that this fitness park gives the people of St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay, including AARP members, a new space to play and stay healthy,” AARP Chief Executive Officer Jo Ann Jenkins said Wednesday as she opened this inaugural fitness park. “We have a strong commitment to local communities and hope that these parks will be a boon for each state and territory that we serve.” AARP plans to build parks in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The second park is expected to open in Ohio later this year.
AARP intends to work with national nonprofit FitLotTM in the construction of equipment for the parks, which can be adapted to meet a wide range of fitness levels. It also plans to train fitness instructors at local parks and recreation departments. AARP staff and volunteers will then partner with local leaders to build the sites and promote free fitness classes. During Wednesday's ribbon cutting, fitness coach June Kittay demonstrated how the specialized equipment works and how it can be modified for different ability levels.
AARP has had a long relationship with the St. Petersburg community, beginning when its founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, opened one of its four former hospitality houses in the city, which offered classes and other activities for older adults. The city was also the site of AARP's first mail-order pharmacy, which helped members combat high prescription drug prices.
"I am excited and honored to have the first AARP-branded fitness park in the United States,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “St. Petersburg is leading the way to ensure our citizens have healthy options to live, work and play, and I appreciate AARP recognizing our efforts.”
Also this week, Florida became the fourth state to join AARP's Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, a move designed to help make Florida even more livable for people of every age.
"I am pleased that Florida is joining this network to take concrete, actionable steps that will make our state more friendly and livable, not only for children and working-age adults, but also for older Floridians,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.