How walking, talking and dancing in the park promotes healthy aging

A 2015 study of park activity in Nanchang—a Chinese city of over five million people—found that more than half of park users were over 60. Along with walking, other popular activities were organized dancing, Tai Chi, using public gym equipment and playing badminton.

The high proportion of seniors using urban parks in China contrasts with similar studies of North American cities, which found fewer older adults visiting parks and lower physical activity levels, according to Preventive Medicine. In Toronto, for example, where more people are over 65 than under 15, greater use of the city’s 1,500 parks could offer many health advantages as people age.

Social connections and more mobility

Geriatric experts at Toronto’s University Health Network say urban parks give seniors an opportunity to connect with neighbours and avoid social isolation. Neighbourhood parks provide key physical activity and psychological benefits too, according to a study of park use by seniors in Montreal.

Engagement with nature in green spaces also promotes a sense of calm and well-being for people who regularly spend time in parks. People diagnosed with depression had better attention, short-term memory and mood when they walked in a quiet nature setting than in a noisy urban one, according a Journal of Affective Disorders study.

Making parks age-friendly

Senior woman in the parkA City of Toronto Seniors Strategy survey identified several park features that encourage older adults to get out and use green spaces in their communities. Appropriate seating tops the list. Older adults need places to rest and a place to sit promotes social interaction. They also look for benches not too low that give back support and arm rests for leverage. So the City installed 500 benches, mostly in parks near where seniors live.

More tree cover provides shelter and shade from the sun for older adults, who are at greater risk for dehydration and more sensitive to the sun’s glare. Another desirable feature is adult exercise equipment suitable for seniors, as evidenced by avid users in Nanchang.

Creating more green spaces and installing benches encourages seniors to walk more, according to McMaster University researchers. Regular walking improves balance and coordination, builds muscle strength, maintains heart health and contributes to emotional well-being.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers a wide range of activities to help you keep moving well into your retirement years. Click here to learn more about our LiveNow programming and recreational activities.