Spring is creeping in on 2016, with its warm tendrils bringing in the dewy optimism of a reborn year. In San Francisco and the Bay Area, that optimism is more than a little warranted. After all: it’s an even year. After winning the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants look to keep that streak of alternately-amazing baseball alive. And while the projections don’t have them as a lock, we know better. The bats are cracking, fastballs are humming with a satisfying smack into outstretched leather, and the year is an even one. Baseball is back, and we’re ready for it.
For an aging loved one in your life who is a baseball fan, this can bring both joy and frustration. Joy, of course, that we get to watch baseball again, but frustration that getting to the park, and getting around, isn’t the same. It’s harder. They might have trouble walking, might be a little slower, might be uncomfortable about the bathroom situation, or their health. But that shouldn’t stop them from seeing the game they love. AT&T Park, home of the Giants, is well-known for its handicap and senior accessibility. These can make going to the ballpark, as the players say, a can of corn.
Elder Accessibility at AT&T Park
Phil has been a Giants fan since they moved to the area in 1958, when San Francisco was best known as a setting for detective movies, and the only baseball to come out of it was the DiMaggio brothers. He talks of the thrill of seeing Willie Mays play at old Candlestick all those years, slowing down, but still always being “The Say Hey Kid.” He agonized over that ‘62 team that came so close, suffered through the bad years, shuffled through the chaos of the Earthquake World Series and loss, was catatonic in 2002, and then got to celebrate the recent run of great fortune with his adult children and his grandchildren. And he still wants to go to games, even as age has made it harder for him to get around. He hasn’t been in years, but with the grandkids old enough, he is champing at the bit to return. His children looked into it, and realized it would be a breeze.
For an older adult, AT&T Park is easy to navigate. It features amenities like:
- Easy parking and access. The park has plenty of handicapped parking for older adults who need help, and has accessible entrances. There are also drop-off zones in case you aren’t able to access the handicapped parking section, so that your loved one doesn’t have to navigate the parking lot. If driving isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy the beautiful bay with a water taxi, which drops you off about a block from the park, or the MUNI train, with a handicap accessible stop directly in front of the ballpark.
- Wheelchair escorts. If your loved one is in a wheelchair, or just doesn’t feel that they will be able to walk around the ballpark, the club provides assistance in the form of escorts, who can help navigate you around, including to elevators (depending on your seats). This can help cut through the pushing crowd.
- Wheelchair-accessible seating. Of course, getting into the ballpark is one thing—seeing the game is another. Happily, for Phil and his kids, AT&T Park has handicapped-accessible seating all around the field, with great sightlines from nearly every angle. They are easy to get to, and the escorts can help you find your way around.
- Easily accessible bathrooms. For many of our older loved ones, a washroom situation at a large venue is a primary area of concern, for reasons of incontinence, needing a handicapped stall, or just inconvenience and jostling. All ballparks have handicapped accessible stalls in every bathroom, and doors wide enough to get a wheelchair through. The handicapped seating sections tend to be closest to the bathrooms as well, so you can beat the line after Madison Bumgarner strikes out the side.
The old uncomfortable ballparks may have been iconic, but they weren’t as welcoming or convenient as the ones we have now. Getting to a game is far easier now than at any other time. Enjoying it, however, is the same as it’s always been.
Special Promotions at AT&T Park: Memory and Community
Baseball isn’t just about celebrating the present and hoping for the future: it’s about connecting with the past. The game has barely changed. A throw from short nearly always beats out the runner at first, a 12-6 curveball makes even the best batters look silly, and a home run tracing a majestic arc in the night sky still brings the crowd to its feet with a yell tearing from its collective throat. We remember the past at the ballpark, and we remember family and the community built around a shared passion. The Giants are one of the best teams to celebrate that.
AT&T Park loves honoring the communities that make San Francisco great. There are heritage nights throughout the year—Irish, Filipino, African-American, Japanese, and more. There are Brewfests and Winefests, and tributes to artists as diverse as Metallica and Jerry Garcia. There are nights to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS and cancer. The ballpark is always a place where we celebrate more than baseball—we celebrate our heritage. For our older adults, this sense of connection and community, this celebration of memory and excitement, can be what experiencing life, and aging in dignity and joy, is all about.
Baseball is about time, change, and growth. One of its great poets, Bart Giamatti, said, “Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
It doesn’t stop, though. It keeps going, like we do, through this world. Generations rise, are replaced, and mingle around shared memories and the love they have for each other. Sometimes that’s the love they have for baseball, as pure for Phil as it is for his grandchildren. This year (another World Series year?), being able to take advantage of some of the best that San Francisco has to offer can help your older loved one be happy, active, and involved in the life of their community.
At Institute on Aging, we work with aging adults and their families to ensure our aging loved ones can still get the most out of life in comfort and dignity. Connect with us today to learn more about our work in the Bay Area, and how we can help your loved one age in place.