A city official proposes a recreation area for seniors

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There’s a new trend in aging, senior services director Laurie Fanelli told the Community Preservation Fund’s advisory board at its June 13 meeting, emphasizing fitness and exercise.

Ms Fanelli acknowledged this and asked the advisory council to consider a site for a recreation area for the elderly.

Successful aging requires interaction with others, and for those who live alone there can be a tendency to isolate themselves from others. The Island offers many activities for seniors, but these are mostly planned events. When they have finished, the participants return home, too often alone.

A recreation area with age-friendly activities would be a more informal gathering place, Ms Fanelli said.

She pointed to Esther Hunt, who at 99, remained engaged. During a recent discussion on affordable housing, Ms. Hunt defended herself, bringing some salient points to the exchange. Just as play and physical activity are important for children, the same stimuli are important for older people, Ms Fanelli said. Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmstead recognized the need to provide appropriate spaces that older people could enjoy with activities that suited them, she said.

She quoted George Bernard Shaw: “We don’t stop playing because we get old; we age because we stop playing.

It’s not necessary to have a lot of equipment at such a site, Ms Fanelli said, but it should include gardens and activities for people with reduced mobility. The area or playground, she said, would provide, among other activities, exercises to build upper body strength and walking paths. Pointing to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, Ms. Fanelli noted that many older people were there playing chess with each other to stimulate themselves mentally.

Councilor Jim Colligan, who was overseeing the meeting, suggested that Recreation Committee Chair Kim Reilly and FIT Director Emily Kraus might be helpful in developing a site.

“I see this as a win-win situation,” Ms. Fanelli said.

“I think it’s a great program,” said Community Preservation Fund President Gordon Gooding, and could also serve people with physical disabilities. “I think we should explore it.” Mr. Gooding suggested the West Neck Preserve, one of the most recent sites acquired by CPF.

Ms Fanelli said she would contact doctors at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Eastern Long Island Hospital who could prescribe the use of such a site for their elderly patients. This would be an opportunity to get staff for a recreation area.

There are logistical issues to sort out, such as insurance to protect the City from any liability. But all agreed that the initial meeting had laid a solid foundation for further exploration and discussion.

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