Older adults use playspaces too

A man is enjoying himself on exercise equipment in a playspace for older adults. Play is often associated with children, but play is for everyone. We know that grandparents take their grandchildren to playspaces to spend time with them. But older adults use playspaces too – that is, if they include the right design elements. 

The Auckland Design Manual has a new resource – Designing Play Spaces for Older Adults. The nicely designed 10 page document has great pictures of older people enjoying themselves. The concept of universal design is translated into the adult playspace context:

      • Safety
      • Be Active
      • Connect Me
      • Take Notice
      • Give

A group of Maori women are exercising together in the playspace.There is a new concept, “take notice”, which means being present, aware and mindful, all of which have mental health benefits. Parks are also places where people can volunteer so that brings in the concept of “give”. 

Auckland City Council’s research found that fear of being a victim of crime and fear of falling prevent park use by older adults. Consequently, recommendations for safety include:

      • Ensure the environment is well maintained and well lit
      • Provide accessible parking, toilets and drinking fountains close to the play area 
      • Ensure paths, handrails, seating and signage follow universal design guidelines. Seating should have back and arm rests.
      • Position the play space so it is visible from surrounding buildings and well connected with short direct paths that are not steep
      • Allowance for a food truck or coffee cart to facilitate activity and increase passive surveillance
      • Consideration for pandemic safety with wide paths and sanitiser stations.

A nice addition to the Auckland Design Manual that has a section on universal design that leads to other sections. 

The Everyone Can Play guideline also promotes the concept of playspaces for all ages. 


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