Motion Wellness Systems at St. Paul’s Plaza

Seniors get play time too

Article By: Allison Sampite-Montecalvo, San Diego Tribune

CHULA VISTA — Seniors and their families are enjoying an intergenerational playground built in east Chula Vista.

St. Paul’s Plaza in Otay Ranch installed the outdoor activity center — created for adults and children — last month. The playground focuses on safe and fun exercise for older adults while providing a space for children to play.

Ronn Ellenrich, the general manager at St. Paul’s Plaza, said the organization is always looking for ways to improve senior health and well-being, and the activity center allows generations of families to exercise and socialize together.

Aside from offering physical therapy, the playground also provides a social space where seniors can interact with others who can relate to their situation. With some equipment designed for more than one person, it creates an environment for working together and building friendships, helpful in keeping seniors from becoming isolated, lonely and depressed.

The playground offers a slide, bridge and several exercise stations.

“The seniors of today are different than the seniors of only 10 years ago,” said Amanda Gois, director of corporate marketing at St. Paul’s Senior Services. “They were more active as adults. They had a lot more hobbies and experiences and a lot of the senior communities are not catering to that.”

St. Paul’s Plaza is a resort-style retirement community for seniors 60 or older looking for active residential living, personal care, memory support or a combination of services and programs.

Seniors like Virginia Sutton, 89, came to St. Paul’s Plaza about six months ago with her husband who needed personal care.

At St. Paul’s, residents are classified as active, personal care and memory impaired.

An “active independent,” Sutton wracked her brain for several seconds when she was asked her age, but not because of a memory issue.

“Virginia really embodies well living,” Ellenrich said. “She couldn’t remember her age because she doesn’t pay attention to it because it’s just a number.”

That became apparent when she stood at the top of the slide at the plaza’s new intergenerational playground. “I want to go down backwards,” she said.

Despite being one of the plaza’s oldest residents, who range in age from 64 to 101, Sutton refers to the people she’s living with as the “old people.”

Before building St. Paul’s Plaza in Chula Vista, a study was done to identify need and it revealed that Chula Vista has a high percentage of seniors, which was why the organization purchased the land.

Meetings were hosted for seniors once a month during the 2014-15 planning and building process.

“We had seniors from different areas meet with us and tell us what they wanted in a senior community, and the big thing that kept coming up is that they wanted to have a place to live where their grandchildren could come and visit with them and they could have things to do,” Gois said.

The playground has helped make the plaza a family destination.

Senior citizen playgrounds differ from traditional playgrounds because they offer equipment safer for older joints, emphasizing core muscle strength to improve balance and coordination, build strength and increase flexibility.

Equipment specifically focuses on use of the wrist, arms and shoulders, range of motion and footwork.

Some equipment is designed for those with limited mobility or who are in a wheelchair.

The artificial turf grass is designed to protect senior joints from a 6 foot fall.

“One of the biggest risks for seniors is falls,” Ellenrich said. “Once a senior has fallen, it’s always in their mind that they’re going to fall again, especially if they’ve broken a bone.”

The first senior citizen playground is believed to have been built in China in 1995 after the country adopted a national law that resulted in a nationwide physical fitness program for elderly citizens. Today, senior citizen playgrounds are found worldwide.

St. Paul’s Senior Services has been providing care and support for San Diego County seniors since 1960.

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