Colorado’s first playground for 50-older set debuts in El Jebel | AspenTimes.com

Colorado’s first playground for 50-older set debuts in El Jebel

Bridget Hagen
The Aspen Times

Colorado's first motion and wellness playground for seniors, funded by a grant of $80,000 from the NextFifty Initiative, opened Thursday at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel.

More than 6,000 seniors live in Eagle County, and the park previously did not offer as many options for them as for other age groups.

"Our population size is increasing with seniors," Crown Mountain Park executive director Rebecca Wagner said at the opening. "They need more outlets. You know, not all seniors can run up the side of the mountain or ski anymore."

Engaging in the strength, cardio, balance and stability exercises made possible by the playground's eight equipment units can improve dexterity, prevent falls and improve mental health, officials said. Instructions for how to properly use the equipment can be found on each unit, making the playground a safe and user-friendly option for seniors.

"We have a lot of active seniors, and I think fitness is a top priority for not just seniors but all generations of people," Wagner said. "Why not get them outside and physically active? The exercise machines can adjust to everyone's activity level."

NextFifty chief operating officer Diana McFail affirmed that exercise is an important aspect of health for seniors because "it can help reduce the risk of several health conditions and disease."

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In addition to the benefits to physical and mental fitness, the playground also provides social opportunities, allowing users to "work out as a team," Wagner said.

Many of the exercise machines face each other or can be operated by more than one person, enabling users to interact with one another while working out. The fitness zone also includes a picnic table where people can gather before or after a workout.

Open to the public, the playground provides a less expensive alternative to a traditional gym.

"It's free," Wagner said. "A lot of people are on restricted incomes; they need affordability."

Seniors who would like to attend a class that incorporates the playground's equipment can look forward to more options coming in the future, she said.

"The goal is to do programming through Eagle County here with their senior fitness programs, so strength conditioning, circuit classes, outdoor classes," Wagner said.

Wagner also acknowledged the possibility of expanding the playground someday.

"If this is a huge hit and people want more, we can add more stations throughout that are functional fitness," she said. "There's a lot of different things we can do with this space."

NextFifty Initiative is a Denver-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting health and happiness for people 50 and older. The playground aligns with the organization's mission by providing simple and safe exercise equipment for seniors.

"Projects that are innovative and help older adults stay engaged in their community, remain as independent as possible, and not just survive, but thrive are what we seek to fund," McFail said.

The organization announced its inaugural group of grant recipients in March, and construction of the playground began with a ground-breaking ceremony May 24. The grant covered costs from the exercise equipment to the marketing needed to promote the new addition to the park.

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