The Importance of Play for Seniors


Posted on: August 24th, 2020 by | No Comments
The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression." Play has benefits at any age, but especially for seniors looking to improve their health and well-being.

Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. There’s some truth in the old adage, since we often don’t realize how good those years were ’til they were long past. But the things we enjoyed when we were young — especially taking time to play — are just as important in our golden years. Why shouldn’t seniors have fun too, even in an Iowa assisted living setting? We’ve found that a sense of play can enrich any stage of life, which is why it’s an important part of our day-to-day at NewAldaya Lifescapes.

What Defines Play?

Adulthood is serious business. We’re focused, goal-oriented, productivity-minded, and too often appropriately glum for the lot of it. Then we finally retire, and we wonder: now what? Play is the antithesis of all that. Dr. Stuart Brown reminds us that “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” He defines play as activity that’s “purposeless, fun, and pleasurable.”

For seniors looking to improve their health and well-being, it can feel like work at first getting back to that place. Let go, let your hair down, and have fun. If you’ve got grandkids or other young people in your life, take cues from them. Draw, write, sing, dance, and use your imagination for no other reason than the fact that you can, and because it’s fun.

Benefits of Play

Play in its many forms helps mind and body alike. Whether “play” for you means sports, art, music, brain teasers, or even video games, you’re helping to keep your mind sharp. You’re also releasing endorphins that alleviate pain, improve your emotional state, and lower blood pressure. Your mood is boosted, and you often get a different perspective on your day-today concerns. That, in turn, spills over to other areas of your well-being:

  • Lower incidence of depression
  • Reduced numbers of falls and doctor’s visits
  • Improved immune function
  • Feelings of connection and joy
  • A brighter outlook on life

And if you can involve a friend in the fun, so much the better!

Playful Activities for Seniors

As we’ve mentioned, play takes a number of forms. Feel free to try different ways to liven up your day, depending on what you feel like doing, the level of activity you can safely handle, and the kinds of things that bring balance to your life. Just like your diet, varying your play habits helps you stay healthy and prevents any activity from becoming a boring chore.

Exercise

Sports and exercise help when we’re trying to stave off the weight gain and loss of muscle tone that comes with aging. Exercise also lowers your risk of depression, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. You may want to avoid touch football, but even a brisk walk, or activities like yoga or swimming (for those of us with mobility issues) can bring significant health benefits.

Play Games

A game of cards or chess, a board game, or charades can be an opportunity to give your mind a workout, be social, and get some good belly laughs with friends or grandkids. Feeling solitary? The Sunday crossword or a puzzle may not be a laugh riot, but they’ll keep you engaged and help maintain neuroplasticity, the process by which your brain takes in and retains new information.

Take Up a Hobby

Maybe you haven’t been dancing in a while. Perhaps you’d like to liven up dinner with some new cooking skills. Or maybe you wonder whether you have an eye for photography, or would like to spend some time unearthing the roots of your family tree. It’s never too late to learn something new for no other reason than having the time and inclination to do so. From night classes to individual classes at a local college — many of which open seniors with open arms — the opportunities are practically endless.

What If You’re Not Feeling Playful?

We understand. Some days are better than others. A nagging pain, a bit of anxiety, or a time when you’re feeling blue may not have you reaching for the tennis racket, your watercolors, or the Parcheesi board. Our minds and bodies need periods of quiet, rest, and contemplation, too, and it’s important to honor that. But if you find that the blues persist, or that pain keeps you from activities you’d like to do, it’s equally important to address that issue at its source. Outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy can help in this regard. Talk to your loved one or caregiver so you can get back on the road to wellness, and get back to enjoying life to its fullest.

At NewAldaya Lifescapes, we recognize that a life worth living is more than health and vital signs. You’re never too old to find, or rediscover, your joy, and many seniors in the Cedar Falls area have found our senior living facility to be the perfect place to do just that!