Why is play just for children?
Play has enormous physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages. Yet research on play is almost exclusively focused on children. The Aging Playfully project was created to examine the potential of playful spaces for older adults.
Society is aging but our cities are not built for older adults. As we grow older, our relationship with the built and social environment tends to change. We now know that the immediate neighbourhood plays an integral role in one’s ability to age well. We also know a fair bit about the risks in the built environment and how to minimize them. Inclusive, age-friendly design can make a big difference. It can limit physical risk for older adults and combat social isolation and loneliness by lowering barriers to participation.
While preventative measures are important, we feel there is more to inclusive design than caution and access. The built environment should be designed to optimize opportunities for older adult quality of life and wellbeing, not only to minimize risk. The overarching aim of the Aging Playfully project is to extend the conceptualization and practical realities of age-friendly design to include proactively positive measures.
The built environment, especially public spaces, needs to be safe but it also needs to be welcoming. The built environment should entice people of all ages, including older adults, to be active and participate in their community. Inclusive urban design can do more than minimize risk. It can encourage fun. It can generate play.