We don't stop playing because we grow old: we grow old because we stop playing. - George Bernard Shaw

Play is especially important for seniors. As we grow older, many of us become more vulnerable to issues that can affect our health and contentment. Any activities, therefore, that help us to restore or prolong our vigour are essential. Play and fun are powerful activities for older adults and can have several major benefits. Play has the power to help improve brain function and prevent memory problems. The social interaction of playing with others can also help ward off stress and depression. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins which can improve your optimism, grow your moments of joy and reduce your stress. Sharing fun and laughter can promote feelings of compassion, empathy and intimacy with others. Developing a playful nature can help you to take better control of your responses in stressful situations, be more relaxed and friendly in the company of strangers and form stronger bonds with your intimates. You will learn a new task better when it is fun and you are in a relaxed and playful state of mind. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you to adapt and problem-solve. Creating a good deal of fun moments in your life can be a positive way to boost your immune system, reduce your chance of illness and minimize your experience of physical pain. Play and fun are the complete opposite of boring. They will lighten your heart.

Active Learning:  You can be a student again and this time get to choose what programs and classes suit you most. Many universities and community colleges offer lifelong learning programs which can open new avenues of possibility to you. You can attend a seniors-only class or audit an undergraduate seminar. These classes are usually taught by professors and seniors can attend programs that examine topics from urban planning to women’s studies. Learning something new can build your confidence and optimism, and support further discoveries and opportunities for exploration. You are never too old to learn something new so follow your curiosity and imagination wherever it takes you. As examples, you might enjoy learning how to:

  • Speak a foreign language
  • Write great stories or memoirs
  • Optimize computer use
  • Express your artistic/dramatic talents
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Take professional-grade photographs

The Importance of Play for Seniors | Music | The Worn Doorstep

Arts and Crafts:  When you were young, do you remember how much fun it was to create pictures and playthings with pure joy and abandon, without the need to worry and focus on how your creation would be judged? It’s likely that your imagination felt stimulated and alive back then as more and more great ideas flowed freely from your mind. You can recapture some of these delightful feelings while experimenting with a number of arts and crafts. These types of leisure activities are suited to people of all ages, and they make wonderful elderly pursuits.They can trigger a person’s imaginative artistic style and feelings of adventure. Try your hand at:

  • Jewellery making
  • Painting, sketching, collages
  • Ceramics, polymer clay modelling
  • Knitting, crocheting, embroidery
  • Scrapbooking, journalling
  • Woodworking, carving

Activities to Challenge Your Brain:  Card games and board games provide some challenging and stimulating activities to do with other seniors as well as with the younger generation. Games provide interesting ways to interact with family and friends while enjoying the stimulation of intellectual challenge and friendly competition. Some ideas could be:

  • Monopoly
  • Chess
  • Backgammon
  • Scrabble
  • Bridge
  • Chinese checkers

Active Games and Sports:  These activities give seniors the chance to get some regular exercise, improve their overall physical coordination, stimulate and challenge their senses, and provide the opportunity to engage with other people in a friendly, competitive spirit. Let’s get going with:

  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Softball
  • Lawn bowling
  • Pool
  • Curling

Dancing, Karaoke and Performance:  These activities allow you to be very much in the moment. You can feel the world stand still while you enjoy feelings of pure pleasure, happiness and total engagement with the events at hand. The action of dancing releases emotional and physical tension and connects your body to healing rhythms and relaxing motions that soothe the soul. Singing songs in your fashion can be a lot of fun if you can just allow the pleasure to flow and cast all judgments aside. Acting in a theatrical piece or doing a stand-up comedy routine gives you the chance to use your talents to tell a story in new and creative ways. Try activities like:

  • Ballroom dancing
  • Line dancing
  • Seniors’ karaoke
  • Writing and acting out skits
  • Acting in a play
  • Participating in comedic improv

Social Gatherings and Parties:  Socializing helps to add more fun and pleasure to your life. You can reminisce with friends about the “old days” or discuss current social and political topics that interest you. Good conversation helps to uplift your spirits and improves your overall sense of well-being. Try joining groups and attending parties while, at the same time, planning some social events of your own. They could include:

  • Masquerade ball
  • Trivia night
  • Charades
  • Casino after dark
  • Murder mystery party
  • The Oscars

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Trips and Travel:  Seniors can choose from a wide variety of trips and travel activities. Trips can range from one-day tours in areas nearby to weeks of travel and exploration in international locations. Doing something adventurous and outside of the ordinary is often a prescription for fun. Join a small group of friends and go on some field trips to enjoy the experience of seeing something new. Excursions to consider are:

  • Country fairs and flea markets
  • Wineries
  • Beer festivals
  • Art exhibitions
  • Play festivals
  • Sporting events

Outdoor Activities, Gardening and Bird-watching:  Being in the out of doors can actually improve a person’s mood. The natural world is abundant with sensory pleasures that make you feel connected to a larger universe and serve to draw you out of yourself. You feel like an explorer as you uncover the many sights, sounds, and fragrant smells of the great outdoors. Some fun activities could be:

  • Bird-watching
  • Hiking
  • Gardening
  • Bicycling
  • Camping
  • Swimming

Enrich the Spirit:  Humans are social animals and feel that group activities are far more satisfying than the things they can do alone. Being a member of a church or civic organization or simply spending time with neighbours, family and friends are spirit-enriching behaviours that contribute to a deep feeling of peace and well-being.

As you can see, play should be a major part of life for seniors. We all need as many childlike experiences as we can squeeze into our lives. We need to play as often as possible to get back in touch with our youthful natures and we need to celebrate these gifts. Playfulness and fun are simply too important to our health and welfare to ignore. Laughter and happiness should belong to all of us, no matter our age.

The Value of Play is not just for kids | The Worn Doorstep Blog

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