Allan Kirk says a lot of money has been spent on children, now it’s time to spend some money on the elderly. PHOTO/ELI HILL

Eli Hill

A seniors’ playground would be a tourist attraction, as well as keeping older people, healthy, happy, and socially active.

That’s the argument put forward by Masterton resident Allan Kirk, who sent a proposal to Masterton district councillors in July asking them to consider the instillation of a seniors’ playground in Masterton.

“It’s a health thing – a very important health thing. Overseas they’ve found that it means the elderly remain healthy for longer and are much less cost to society.

“It’s a social thing as well, the elderly often get lonely. When they come to something like this they meet people and they get together.”

His proposal featured images of smiling seniors enjoying swings, balance, rowing, and workout machines, along with text informing councillors about the benefits of an adult playground.

While Kirk hadn’t seen any adult playgrounds in New Zealand, he said they had been installed in several European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands and were particularly popular in China.

“In the Chinese city of Nanchang, hundreds of elderly people use eight exercise parks for their daily exercise regime. More than 50 per cent of the users of the parks are older adults.

“This is something that occurs across China – rather than solo runners or cyclists, the most common demographic in exercise parks is large groups of pensioners.”

There had been a lot of superannuitants moving into Masterton and the town needed to cater for them.

“If we’re going to spend a million dollars on the kids, it’s about time we spent some money on the oldies as well.”

He thought Henley Lake could be a good place to put the park as it was accessible and was already well known to many seniors.

“The only requirement really is that it needs to be near parking because the elderly will need somewhere to park.”

With Chinese-made equipment – which Kirk priced at under $NZ5000, and an estimated site preparation cost of $20,000 Kirk said the exercise park “wouldn’t break the ratepayer’s bank”.

“When considering the costs for the establishment of this exercise park, it should be remembered that the council has spent well over $1 million for the construction of a children’s skate park.

“And many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent over the years on children’s playgrounds. Surely, it’s time older Mastertonians had some money spent on a playground for them.”

Kirk said councillors had been “more than interested” in his proposal.

“Just about everyone said they thought it was brilliant.”

Masterton District Mayor Lyn Patterson said she was “very supportive” of the exercise park.

“I have asked Allan to submit his proposal through to our planning process for next year’s Long Term Plan.

Two women doing exercises on a seniors’ playground. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

“We did have a proposal for an exercise park from a service club in the past but that did not eventuate.”

Patterson said the council is supportive of ensuring we have an active community.

“Which is why we have invested in walking and cycling trails and I see that an exercise park would be a welcome addition to that.

“We will consider it along with any other proposals submitted through our planning next year.”

Masterton district councillor Bex Johnson said she had viewed several adult playgrounds while overseas.

“The most amazing ones were in China. The demand for these spaces overseas can be extremely high because people live in tiny apartments with no land and need to go to public spaces to socialise, exercise and for leisure.

“In one park I went to there was ballroom dancing, badminton, gymnastics, choir practice, martial arts and fitness programmes all happening at the same time. It was amazing!”

Johnson said people were using public spaces like we use event centres and halls.

“I believe that we are fortunate to have many spaces to choose from for our activities. We have bountiful access to the outdoors which is essentially a ‘space’ for fitness, exercise and leisure.

“I personally wouldn’t see the need to create another man-made park when we have so much on offer to access.”