Above: A local resident, Ron Grew, using the new outdoor exercise equipment at Lilyfield, in the Sydney municipality of Leichhardt.
By Stephen Easton
Sydney’s first outdoor exercise area specifically for seniors was launched on the weekend, in the suburb of Lilyfield, not far from the AAA office.
Seniors exercise parks are springing up around Australia, and around the world, as ideas like active ageing and age-friendly urban environments become more popular with local governments such as Leichhardt Municipal Council, which built the seniors fitness station.
The mayor of Leichhardt, Councillor Rochelle Porteous, said the council was committed to providing opportunities for older residents to maintain healthy and active lifestyles.
“The station will literally be a gym in the outdoors, with bay views and fresh air to create one of the most enjoyable workouts in Sydney,” Cr Porteous said.
“The equipment is designed specifically for seniors with ease of access and less resistance than traditional gym equipment, with the focus instead on mobility, aerobic exercise and socialising.”
The fitness station includes a water fountain, seats, bike racks and ten pieces of gym equipment, including treadmills, cross trainers and a cycle trainer, as well as a sit-up bench and pull-up bars.
Above: Pat Grew enjoys running with her husband, Ron, in the same area where the outdoor equipment is located.
“There’s plenty of variety to keep people challenged and motivated,” Cr Porteous said.
“We’re really hoping to capitalise on the ‘You’re never too old to play’ philosophy, by creating a fun and welcoming space for older residents to get active and make new friends at the same time.”
A 2005 council study highlighted the value of providing local facilities that give older adults more opportunities for exercise and socialisation, in order to promote their health and wellbeing.
“Importantly, the study advocates the need to not only focus on older adults’ physical fitness, competition and skill improvements but also on social and general health outcomes,” Cr Porteous said.
“A key component is the opportunity for improved socialisation, which in itself promotes community wellbeing and good health outcomes.”
The NSW Government is currently preparing to launch a draft whole-of-government ageing strategy in April, which will expect local governments like Lecihhardt to play a “pivotal role” in creating ‘liveable communities’ for older people, according to a summary paper released in December, Towards a NSW Whole of Government Ageing Strategy.
Leichhardt City is not a member of the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities, which also encourages local governments to build age-friendly urban environments, but according to the mayor, the inner-Sydney municipality may consider joining in the future.
Cr Porteous also noted that as the population continues to age, “the importance of promoting health in old age becomes increasingly significant”.
People of all ages are free to use the seniors exercise park in Lilyfield, but people under 16 are expected to be supervised by an adult, and commercial fitness trainers are not allowed to take over the equipment with their clients.
Heart Foundation NSW CEO, Tony Thirlwell, has congratulated Leichhardt Council on installing Sydney's first playground aimed at adults.
“Physical activity doesn’t always have to be strenuous and you can include it in your daily routine,” Mr Thirlwell said. “The benefits start to happen as soon as you start doing physical activity.”
The facility was funded by $37,500 from Leichhardt Council, combined with a $17,500 Sport and Recreation Facility Grant from the NSW Government.