Eastbourne to provide playground for the elderly

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The Independent Online

A seaside town with a reputation as a retirement haven could become the next area in Britain to provide older residents with an outdoor playground, it was revealed today.

Mature residents of Eastbourne, East Sussex, will be able to enjoy gentle workouts on a range of specially-designed fitness equipment if the proposals go-ahead.

Community officials in the resort hope the idea will appeal to people struggling with the economic downturn who may not be able to afford gym membership.

Britain's first so-called "pensioners' playground" opened in Dam Head Park, Blackley, Greater Manchester, in January, featuring six pieces of fitness equipment for over 60s.

The opening of the £15,000 facility marked the end of a two-year quest by the Dam Head Residents' Association to find the perfect leisure facilities for their older residents.

Now the Central and Archery Area Panel in Eastbourne hopes to be able to offer individual fitness stations with names including "surfer", "space walker", "body twister" and "horseback rider".

Its treasurer, Sue Parsons, said today: "We have a local park where there is already a children's playground and we spoke to the local council with a view to installing equipment for older people.

"It makes sense because everyone needs to exercise, gym membership can be expensive and the feedback we have already received from local people has been positive.

"Each of the four area panels in Eastbourne were asked to come up with ideas to spend money allocated to us and after seeing the scheme in Manchester, thought we could do something similar."

Mrs Parsons said she also hopes the playground could become an attraction for other age groups. She said: "I've got a vision of mums and grannies taking their children and grandchildren to the playground."

Each group of volunteers at the four area panels, which are supported by Eastbourne Homes, has access to an environmental improvement budget to help make positive changes to the community.

Pensioners in the area backed the plan.

Mary Bridger, 79, told the Eastbourne Herald: "There are plenty of older people around in Eastbourne so it would be used and any facility you get free is nice.

"They say we have got to stay active and I could have thought younger over-60s could do exercises. I could do things when I was 60 I can't now."

Bob Kellett, also 79, said: "It should not just be children who have playgrounds. My wife and I both keep very fit, it is keeping us alive."