The state director of AARP visited Buffalo on Wednesday to open the fifth outdoor fitness park in the nation sponsored by the advocacy group for older Americans.
AARP plans to sponsor a fitness park in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to commemorate the association’s 60th anniversary.
Horace “Billy” Johnson Park – at Hager and Florida streets in the Hamlin Park neighborhood – has the only fitness section of its kind planned in New York.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to open this outdoor fitness park, right here in Buffalo,” State Director Beth Finkel said before a gathering of government officials and the public. “This is a space to play and stay healthy, free to the public, including our members.”
A rubberized surface added to Johnson Park includes a space for group exercise, as well as an elliptical, parallel bars, arm peddling machine and other equipment that can be modified for a variety of fitness levels and abilities. It was built by FitLot, a nonprofit devoted to creating outdoor fitness parks.
A recent AARP survey found that safe parks are among the top three community features people want in their neighborhoods. The fitness section was designed to improve physical and mental health, enhance community connections and add economic value to the neighborhood.
Association officials pointed out that the number of Erie County residents age 65 and older jumped by 19% from 2007 to 2017, while the under-65 population declined by 2%.
The next outdoor fitness park sponsored by AARP is scheduled to open Saturday in Cincinnati, Ohio.