When was the last time you played? Childhood is full of opportunities to imagine, create and have fun, but those often subside as we mature and take on more responsibilities. Occasionally, play is even considered silly or unproductive. But having fun is important at every age, and with World Laughter Day coming up, this is the perfect time to highlight the benefits of play for seniors.
How Do You Define Play?
Dr. Stuart Brown, who has spent decades studying the power of play, stresses that what constitutes “play” will vary between individuals, but that it should be about the joy of the experience, rather than accomplishing a goal. As long as the activity you choose is “purposeless, fun and pleasurable,” than you will be reaping the benefits of play.
The Neurological Benefits of Play
In his TED Talk “Play is more than just fun,” Dr. Brown states, “nothing lights up the brain like play.” Many fun activities, such as playing games or creating art, involve creativity, imagination and critical thinking skills. Play can help seniors develop and maintain their cognitive abilities by keeping their brains active and engaged, and is also known to help reduce memory loss.
The Physiological Benefits of Play
Having fun releases endorphins, which naturally make us happier and more relaxed, and can even temporarily lessen pain. Play also prevents illness by eliminating the stress hormones that attack our immune system. A good laugh is especially beneficial, as it relieves tension in our muscles and lowers blood pressure, helping to protect us against cardiovascular problems.
The Psychological Benefits of Play
Having fun is one of the best ways to lighten our mood and increase feelings of contentment and relaxation. Seniors who incorporate play into their lives will get a daily boost of happiness, which is an excellent way to combat some of the emotional and physical difficulties associated with aging. Additionally, shared laughter is one of the best bonding experiences and can make two individuals feel closer to each other. Seniors and caregivers should make a point of having fun together, not only to relieve stress, but also to build a stronger, more effective relationship.
How Seniors Can Have More Fun
There are plenty of ways to play; the challenge is finding something that works for you. Caregivers can help seniors find ways to have fun by experimenting with activities that interest them, such as reading, listening to music or an audiobook, knitting, painting, talking or going for a walk. It doesn’t matter how you choose to have fun, as long as it is compliments a senior’s health and lifestyle, and is easily accessible and sustainable.
So what are you waiting for – make a point of having more fun today and everyday.
Adapted from Retire At Home Blog, June 20, 2016