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“There are more and more playspaces being built where the whole family can have fun, as well as keep fit”, says Paul Redden, Managing Director of eibe Play Ltd.
The Oxford English Dictionary does not yet include the word “generationlessness”; this is probably a good thing in terms of clarity of speech, but it could eventually become an integral subsection of Chapter G to describe something that has no boundaries in terms of age – specifically, an activity which can be undertaken and enjoyed by toddlers and octogenarians alike. Welcome to the future of playspaces…
Playgrounds and recreational areas have been around, in some shape or form, for centuries. Various cultures lay claim to being the first to utilise a space for child’s play; many believe that Germany, the home of our parent company, eibe GmbH, was the first nation to create organised and educational play areas to teach children the proper ways to have fun and interact with others. In the UK, town councils laid out public parks for recreation as early as the 19th Century and the ‘first’ English playground was erected in a park in Manchester in 1859. The British playtime evolution continued apace and in February 2008, Dam Head Park in Blackley became the first-ever over 60s playground!
In the modern-day world of “Xbox-ing”, “PS3-ing” and “Wii-ing”, leisure time has become an essential part of family relationships and in terms of healthy living, the recreational side of the work/play equation has become a lifestyle imperative. What’s making it easier for families to visit their local park nowadays, is the new style of playgrounds that mix ‘n’ match traditional play elements with innovative keep fit items for the more senior attendees. Typical fitness items in an outdoor exercise portfolio include trim trails and balance products, as well as aerobic-style gear such as treadmills and cycling equipment.
What we are finding is that enthusiasm is superseding apathy when it comes to parents and grandparents accompanying their little ones to their local park. The site of bored adults glancing at their watches, worrying that there will not be enough time to get the weekly shopping done, is being replaced by an energetic wave of new visitors, who utilise the time to tone-up and socialise with their partners and friends; most of our ‘Active Parcours’ products for adults are designed for sharing and enjoying time together, while enhancing agility, co-ordination, and balance.
The concept of introducing a non-child element into play spaces first occurred to eibe when pitching for the Farley Fox Park project near Salisbury in 2010. After several consultation meetings with Parks Officer Polly Mason and Chris Stringer from Salisbury City Council, it was decided to proceed with the mixed generation strategy.
We looked hard at the brief and concluded that a freely accessible multi-generation park with leisure and sports facilities for children, parents and grandparents alike was the answer. The concept would bring together people of different age groups and promote physical, social and mental wellbeing for everyone between the ages of 1 and 100! The priority was to encourage physical activity, social cohesion and relaxation.
The uniquely designed playspace was officially opened in the spring of 2011. There are the usual great play items associated with an adventuresome park – plunging slides, a skate ramp and challenging trim trails, plus an enormous Bird's Nest Swing. But that's not what makes the installation really stand out.
Placed strategically amidst the myriad of children's adventure play equipment is a novel range of adult's exercise gear, designed specifically to encourage families to spend more time at leisure. While the kids burn off their own energy careening down the large slide and racing round different wooden features, parents and even grandparents can keep themselves occupied on a variety of aerobic apparatus – ideal for getting fit as the children have fun!
Salisbury MP, John Glen (see image right), was present to launch the park and summed up the unique nature of the family-oriented project.
" I was honoured to be asked to declare the new Farley Fox playground officially open It is a superb facility that I am sure will enrich the lives of many young people and some older ones with the adult fitness equipment that is also included’’.
What specifically should a multi-generation park include?
- Toddlers’ Area: The toddlers’ area is for children between the ages of 0-3. This section should be full of ergonomically shaped equipment for toddlers to play with and educate themselves. The playspace should be fenced off for safety and supervision purposes and free from severe drafts or isolation, so the planting of non-poisonous shrubbery and convenient wooden structures is sensible.
- Children’s Area: The equipment in this section will be geared towards 3-12 year olds. It should blend a mixture of stimulating play items with plenty of free-roaming space. Themed playscapes are particularly attractive for young children, as they encourage role playing and interaction. They should be similarly secure as the toddlers’ playspace, free from waterlogging, noise and wind.
- Teenage Area: Having a suitable play area for adolescents is of paramount importance for the multi-generation park, as the 10-20 age group need constant amusement and exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The teenage arena should be placed centrally, so it is clearly visible from all sides. This decreases the chance of vandalism and encourages open play and friendliness. The space should be there to encourage competiveness and communication, as well as social integration and fun – the balance of play equipment and sufficient seating is thus a necessity.
- Adult Zone: The “Active Parcours” is fundamentally, a playground for grown-ups! It’s a specific sector dedicated to fun and physical activities across all age groups. The gentle-action units enhance the users’ condition and wellbeing by challenging balance, co-ordination, mobility and motor-skills. All exercises can be done individually or with a partner, friend or family member, helping to build communication and amity with like-minded people. In addition to the sports equipment, the Active Parcours will have ample rest areas and seating, as well as offering protection against the elements.
- Communal Area: Bespoke, individual areas are, by definition, crucial to the success of a multi-generation park; but so too is the communal area. This is the ‘global’ meeting space, a forum where children, parents and grandparents can mingle and enjoy a whole family day out together. With suitable catering facilities nearby, there is almost a summer barbecue feeling to the atmosphere – and with the addition of outdoor chess, mini-golf and boules, you could almost be on holiday…
An attractive skyline or the vivid colour of flowers in bloom, are of course, aesthetically pleasing aspects of a town centre’s park. Complementing the cosmetics with a socially integrated play area can only add to the attractiveness of a specific area, breaking down the barriers between the more affluent areas and run-down neglected neighbourhoods. A multi-generation park offers up a chance for people with different ages, ethnicity and from various social backgrounds to meet, play and learn from each other. They are very much the future.