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A Second Childhood

Novembre 2008
Chi l’ha detto che i parchi giochi sono cose per bambini? Per chi non è più giovanissimo ma ha ancora voglia di divertirsi su un’altalena, fare un po’ di ginnastica e socializzare al tempo stesso, in Europa stanno nascendo gli older person’s playgrounds. L’esempio di Manchester.

di Derek Workman

File audio:

Joan Fitzgerald (right)
Joan Fitzgerald (right)

Speaker: Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)

A playground – almost by definition – is for children, but if you visit the northern English city of Manchester, you will find one for grown-ups!
Britain’s first adult playground – or “Older Person’s Playground” – was set up by Joan Fitzgerald. She’s the chairperson of the Dam Head Residents Association in Blackley, in the northern part of the city. She had the idea after seeing photos of a similar project in Germany. Joan Fitzgerald says that she herself is 35 – although her feet are 76! And, as she explains, the playground is primarily for older people:

Joan Fitzgerald (Northern English accent):

It is specially designed for the older people because it’s… some of it’s fairly physical, not a great deal, and (the) other part of it is very gentle. I just thought what a great thing it was, you know, it was enjoyable. And people sort of say, “Well, of course, you know, the old people, they don’t want anything like that,” of course, they’re not old today!


The playground has received plenty of media attention. When it opened, Joan Fitzgerald and her colleagues at Dam Head thought they would get a couple of photographers from the local press. Instead they’ve had radio and television crews and journalists from around the world: Joan Fitzgerald was even seen by a friend on Chinese TV!
The success of the playground could be due to the fact that it answers an important need. One of the most uncomfortable effects of aging can be social isolation – people living alone sometimes don’t leave their homes for days on end. Now, people living on Dam Head Estate have a reason to go out, not just for exercise, but for a friendly chat, often with complete strangers:

Joan Fitzgerald:

It helps the people who live on their own because they can come out. There’s no way you’re going to get on one of those exercise machines and see somebody there and not talk to them. No way. So they start talking to each other. The younger mothers take the children on the children’s playground and they take it in turns to go on the older person’s play area. Workmen use it, so it’s... broken down all sorts of, you know, barriers. You see, the British nature is very conservative. We don’t like showing ourselves off in public. So the Brits (are) slow in coming out to it. They are trying it, they are coming out, slowly, but they are... definitely coming out. If this had been in America or anywhere else, they’d be clambering all over it.

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playground - lett. parco giochi.

grown-ups - adulti.

set up - allestito.

chairperson - presidente.

not a great deal - non troppo.

crews - troupe.

could be due - potrebbe essere dovuto...

aging - invecchiamento.

on end - di fila.

for a friendly chat - per fare due chiacchiere.

on their own - da sole.

they take it in turns - fanno a turno.

workmen - operai.

it’s broken down... barriers - ha abbat-tuto tutti i tipi di barriere.

we don’t like show-ing ourselves off - non ci piace metterci in mostra.

they’d be clamber-ing all over it - pren-derebbero d’assalto l’intero parco.