NRPA Report Demonstrates Importance of Parks & Rec for Older Adults

A new report from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) reveals the importance of social connection through older adult programming in parks and recreation. The “Supporting Older Adults Through Parks and Recreation” report is based on a survey of parks and recreation professionals seeking insights into how they and their staff serve older adults in the community.

Often termed “older adults,” adults older than 55 comprise one of the largest groups in nearly every community. Park and recreation agencies strive to provide facilities, programming and other critical resources that support the lifestyles and diverse needs of baby boomers and upcoming Gen Xers. This includes, but is not limited to, providing accessible and affordable evidence-based programs, safe and inclusive environments for assembling, and an adequate number of activities.

Some key findings from the report include:

  • 92% of park and recreation agencies offer resources and programs related to older adults.
  • 95% of agencies say that promoting social connection and addressing social isolation are top benefits of their older adult programming.
  • 30% of agencies offer intergenerational programming, such as arts and crafts, reading programs, and mentoring opportunities.
  • 30% of park and recreation agencies dedicate 10% or more of their annual operating budget to older adult programming and outreach.

“Many of these agencies are among the leading providers of older adult programming in their communities, and they continually are adapting to serve the diverse older adult population,” said Dianne Palladino, NRPA interim director of research and evaluation. “With needs and the world everchanging, tapping into the power of parks and recreation to support aging in place, foster social connection, and combat the epidemic of loneliness and isolation among older adults is more important than ever.”

Participants in the survey answered questions regarding the facilities, services, outreach and programming that their agencies offer to older adults, as well as the challenges agencies face in serving this ever-growing population. The report summarizes the data from those responses.

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