The southern German city of Nuremberg has hit on a novel idea to make activity more pleasurable for older people. It plans to open playgrounds for pensioners.
There will not be any swings and roundabouts, but there might be climbing frames, giant chess boards and a place to play petanque, says the city's deputy mayor and head of sports, Horst Foerther.
Foerther got the idea from a colleague in Neu-Ulm, who plans to launch a pilot project in the nearby city as part of a regional flower and garden show in 2008.
"We would like somewhere where senior citizens can go and keep fit," said the deputy mayor. Foerther said he envisaged a mix of play areas exclusively for the elderly or in combination with children's playgrounds.
"It would be a good idea to have some place where grandparents can go with their grandchildren. While the children are playing, the older people could do something for their fitness," he said.
This idea of "generational play" was developed in Finland where research by the University of Lapland showed that older people benefited from joining in activities with children in local parks.
A study of 40 people aged between 65 and 81 found there were significant improvements in dexterity, speed and coordination after playing about on climbing frames and monkey ladders.
Foerther put his idea to the Nuremberg city administration, which is looking into the financing.
"The commission agreed that adult playgrounds are a good idea in view of the demographic changes taking place in Germany," said the deputy mayor's assistant, Ronald Hoefler.
Once approval has been given, the city will start looking around for suitable sites before construction work can begin, probably in spring 2008.
Foerther said he envisaged smaller playgrounds in inner cities with overhead bars or stepping blocks where people can stretch their muscles and exercise their joints.
More elaborate ones could be built in leafy suburbs where "older people could go for a jog or enjoy a game of badminton", he said.
Hoefler said that some of the costs might be borne by sponsors.
"In view of our ageing society, it's vital that we do more for our senior citizens," the mayor's assistant said.
Figures released recently by Germany's Federal Statistics Office show that people aged 65 in 2050 will live for 4.5 years longer than those at then same age today.
At the same time, the number of people aged over 80 will increase from four million to 10 million.