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Work/Life: All Play and No Work…I Can Dream, Can’t I?

Let the other bloggers concern themselves with the latest narrowing of the field in the presidential election; let a different set of online pundits make their Super Bowl predictions…I am moved to discuss a rather inspiring story I found online, only a click or two away from the headlines. Apparently there is a new trend in Europe in which outdoor playgrounds for the elderly are being built side-by-side with playgrounds for pre-schoolers.

Let the other bloggers concern themselves with the latest narrowing of the field in the presidential election; let a different set of online pundits make their Super Bowl predictions…I am moved to discuss a rather inspiring story I found online, only a click or two away from the headlines. Apparently there is a new trend in Europe in which outdoor playgrounds for the elderly are being built side-by-side with playgrounds for pre-schoolers.

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The “Older People’s Play Area,” as the one at a park in Britain is called, was inspired by a similar facility in Germany, and the equipment is designed to keep the aging body toned up. I just love that image, of senior citizens, in the later years of life, romping around on play structures, right next to the representatives of the beginning years; one group is exploring their inner child, the other group indulging their outer one. It’s a great reminder of the importance of mindless play in keeping balanced at any age.

And it begs the question: so where’s the playground for the in-betweens? Those of us who are no longer children, but not yet retired or in our golden years? We’ve been relegated to the gym, but that’s just another scheduled block of work time, really (that’s why they call it a “work” out). Plus, everyone’s so serious at the gym; we grimly stare ahead as we run on the treadmill or ride the exercise bike with our Ipod headphones stuck in our ears. Even the more energetic spin or aerobics classes are overwrought in their energetic vibe: feeling the burn is yet another accomplishment in our achievement-oriented lives.

So get me to the playground, please. I want to come out of a department-wide meeting and go running for the swing set and the slide. After all, it’s hard to take dismal first-quarter projections too seriously when you’re diving into a sandbox and look like a total dork. Having trouble communicating with a difficult co-worker? How about a monkey bars challenge?

Let’s complete the triad begun by these new parks with a kids’ playground and a senior citizens’ playground on either side. Put the 28-64 demographic right in the middle. And someday people will be able to drive by and see a whole bunch of goofballs from every age group making complete idiots of themselves, all at the same time. Just try and stay unbalanced after a few weeks of that!

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