February 10, 2010

UK: London to open 1st exercise area for older people

. LONDON, England / The Guardian / World News / February 10, 2010 By Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press Writer It may not be Swinging London — but the British capital's aging baby boomers may soon be flexing muscles that haven't gotten much use since the 1960s. London is getting its first playground dedicated to older people, complete with what the woman behind the plan describes as equipment designed "specially for gentle exercise." "Every park has a children's playground, very few have playgrounds for adults, and none have playgrounds for the elderly," said Madeline Elsdon, whose local residents' association has won funding for the playground, which is planned for London's popular Hyde Park. "We wanted something that would be of long-term benefit to people, so we came up with this idea for an older person's playground." Susan Edgar, 65, plays around at the playground for senior citizens in Manchester, UK. A similar recreation area is planned for London's Hyde Park. Super / AP Exercise areas aimed at the elderly are popular in Europe and Asia, and there's already a U.K. precedent — an over-60 playground billed as Britain's first opened in northern England two years ago. Elsdon said the Hyde Park playground, which is due to be built by this spring, will have six pieces of equipment bought in Denmark, including a stationary bicycle, a cross-trainer and a sit-up bench. She said the equipment "was chosen very carefully for older people," to improve strength and flexibility. British group Age Concern, which works to help the elderly, said the playground sounded like a new — and fun — idea. "Frankly, it's the first time I've ever heard of such a thing," spokesman Stefano Gelmini said. "It looks like a nice initiative." The group's charity director, Michelle Mitchell, said in an e-mail that the playground "could be a great way to encourage older people to exercise and socialize." "Many older people aren't exercising enough," she said, adding that working out with others their own age could help older people alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression. Elsdon said she and others had been "absolutely overwhelmed by the number of people who have shown an interest" in the free play area. Westminster City Council, which released 40,000 pounds (about $60,000) to fund the project, said a sign would identify the area as: "Hyde Park Senior Playground." But the council said anyone, of any age, was free to use it. But why not just go to the gym? Elsdon said that older people have been hard hit by Britain's recession, and that, in any case, many seniors found the gym intimidating. "Too much firm flesh," she said, laughing. [rc] © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010