Fort Myers considers building ‘playground’ for seniors

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz Writer: Joey Pellegrino

The Fort Myers City Council is considering the construction of an “adult playground” as a way to keep Southwest Florida’s seniors healthy and give them a place to socialize.

When you read the word “playground,” you may think of children on swings and slides, but this project intended for construction off Henley Place was inspired by a lot of recreation areas that already exist around Fort Myers. Councilman Fred Burson helped to get exercise equipment installed up and down McGregor Boulevard a couple years ago and has seen how many people have used it.

Since Centennial Park is reopening soon with a playground for children, Burson says, why not give seniors an area somewhere, too? Seniors make up a considerable part of the Southwest Florida population, and Burson says they need an outdoor space to gather and exercise, where fitness would be less of a chore and more of a fun activtiy. The suggested exercise area could increase socialization, promote weight loss and increase their stamina.

Exercise is also known to help control diseases and conditions like hypertension, depression, anxiety, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and more. Burson says with all the new luxury apartments popping up for seniors, it makes sense to give them some outdoor space as well.

“I just thought it would be nice to mix some equipment in that’s suitable for seniors, and that’s what everybody wants, we want to be healthy and active and live outside,” Burson said. “To get people out in the fresh air and get them to interacting with each other again, it would just be… it would be good.”

Personal trainer Vivian Corrales works with seniors all time in her exercise classes. She says the gym can be intimidating to even the younger crowd, so seniors need a safe space to go where they can exercise free of judgment or excessive physical challenges. She says having a dedicated space for them to gather, socialize and exercise could do so much more than keep them in shape.

“I think we all saw during the pandemic, where folks were feeling really secluded and alone… that’s kind of what our seniors go through on a daily basis,” Corrales said. “While we may have just experienced it during the peak of the pandemic, when they’re living alone and they don’t necessarily have that support system, their mental health can suffer. So we want them to kind of have an outlet all year round, right, not just during the really tough times of a pandemic.”

The Fort Myers City Council is set to discuss the idea for the senior fitness area at its meeting Monday night.

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