Parks provide plenty of health benefits to seniors. Being out in the open, exercising, walking or engaging in leisure activities, boosts cognition and fixes body balance. You may see an improvement in joint flexibility and agility too. It also lowers the chances of heart diseases and keeps diabetes under control. When asked about the rate of overall health, 82% of American adults aged 65 to 74 described it as ‘excellent’(18%), ‘very good’ (32%) or ‘good’ (32%) as per a 2017 National Health Interview Survey. The main components of health are vitality, emotional well-being and positive social relationships.
All of these can be ticked off with a sprawling open space. It is quite critical since the US senior population is growing and a third of it will be 65 and older by 2050. Having a specific park catering to senses and memory-reinforcing experiences can help you serve this community. Below are a few tips to design an efficient park.
1. Fitness Equipment
Staying active is the top priority of aging elders. Including therapeutic equipment in the outdoor play space encourages multigenerational play and meets all fitness abilities. It is a good idea since seniors may visit with their grandchildren or younger family members. They are also ideal for anyone who requires additional balance, support and flexibility. Offer lots of other simple choices like:
- walking paths
- benches and picnic areas
- games tables.
This can cater to seniors with different needs and ideas. Try to avoid balance beams, jump boxes or challenge courses without handrails since they are not too safe for older people.
2. Comfortable Benches
Add plenty of heavy-duty benches along the walking areas. Make sure they have a sturdy backrest and arm rests for support. This is necessary since the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in older adults ranges from 65% to 85% with 36%-70% of them suffering from back aches. Pick the ones made from anodized aluminum that resists corrosion and rust guaranteeing years of use. The seats must be slightly higher than normal to make it easier to sit and get up. You can add textured no-slip strips to keep elders from sliding. Provide space for parking wheelchairs. Check the overall sculptural quality of the benches too.
3. Mobility Concerns
A level ground without hills or uneven surfaces is ideal for seniors. Make sure the walking paths are smooth and wide. It can accommodate wheelchairs, rollators and walkers. Stir clear of cracks to avoid canes getting stuck. Provide handrails throughout for individuals with impaired balance. Promote excellent visibility via lamps, keep the park clear of debris and avoid isolated spots.
About 36 million falls are reported among elder adults each year and 3 million are treated in the emergency departments due to these injuries. This makes it a public health concern and must be considered while designing the park.
4. Safe Space
The park must be well-illuminated to facilitate evening walks. Offer receptacles to dispose of trash. Use plenty of plants to buffer noises from the streets. Add fences to keep big dogs or rowdy children from rushing in. You may create artificial ponds, forests and garden areas to make the park area more interesting and stimulating. Hire nurses or assistants who can follow the seniors while they are performing fitness activities. They will be able to enjoy the fresh air and natural light without feeling threatened.
5. Add Shade Structures
Skin cancer is the top form of cancer in the US caused due to overexposure to sunlight. One in five Americans are likely to develop it in their lifetime. It can also easily cause wrinkles, discoloration and sunburns in seniors. This makes shade structures a critical element of a geriatric park. Build gazebos, pergolas and arbors of 8 to 10 feet in height. Fabric canopies and patio umbrellas are efficient as well. They make seniors feel safe and welcome in your park. Add seating spaces below the shades to make them ideal during the summer evenings. You may also add water bottle refill stations or drinking fountains.
Remember that under federal regulations, recreation facilities must comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This way all park programs can be enjoyed by people with disabilities. Get in touch with an experienced design company that can help you build the most effective senior park in your society.