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Investigating requirements for true inclusivity in playgrounds

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educational resource
posted on 09.01.2007, 09:30 by Hannah Moore
Context: Playgrounds form versatile physical training environments for children as well as providing valuable opportunities for social interaction and learning. Recent evidence suggests that playground use can also benefit older adults, improving functional fitness in areas such as balance and co-ordination as well as providing social interaction. However, playgrounds are not designed for adult use. In order to facilitate use and capitalize on the potential benefits, an understanding of what is required by older adults is needed. Aims: This project aims to investigate how playgrounds can be made more inclusive, to support greater use and thus be of greater benefit to all potential users. It further seeks to formulate basic ergonomic guidelines to assist play providers and equipment manufacturers in creating truly inclusive playgrounds. As guidelines to aid inclusivity for children and adult carers with impairments have already published, this project will focus on inclusivity for older adults. Method: A flexible, qualitative approach was used. Because there is scant published literature regarding playgrounds for older adults, a questionnaire was used to survey members of the International Play Association seeking existing knowledge and professional opinion on the issue. Opinion was also sought from other stake holders including those responsible for playground provision. Initially, unstructured interviews with older adults were used to identify issues of importance. These were then used as an evolving framework for six discussion groups. An analysis of data gathered to this point led to the development of a series of questions on which to base semi-structured interviews. The combined data from discussion groups and interviews, together with existing anthropometric data was then used to generate a set of guidelines for creating inclusive playground provision for older adults. Results: Semi-structured interview data showed that 72% of the older adult sample would be willing to use at least one item of playground equipment. Through discussion groups and interviews a number of important themes were identified regarding both equipment and social issues and from these a set of basic ergonomic guidelines was created. Key factors were knowing equipment was designed for adult sizes and weights, and being in a supervised and controlled environment. An audit of existing playgrounds within a one kilometre radius of a central residential point showed that current provision lacked inclusivity. Conclusion: Though further investigation is required using techniques such as user trials and observation, there are a number of changes that could be made to playground provision in order to include older adults, and these changes would be likely to enhance playgrounds for all users. The costs associated with improved provision have the potential to be counterbalanced by benefits in terms of improved health and fitness.



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MOORE, H., 2006. Investigating requirements for true inclusivity in playgrounds. MSc Dissertation, Loughborough: Loughborough University

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This is a project report submitted in part fulfilment of the requirements for the postgraduate course in Ergonomics at Loughborough University.



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