We associate play with childhood but if we knew just how beneficial play can be for older adults and senior citizens, we would never stop playing.
Scientists have only recently started studying the health effects of play on seniors and the findings have been so positive that countries around the world are now building actual playgrounds for their elderly citizens.
Benefits of play
Play has a number of physical and mental health benefits for adults and seniors. When we engage in playful behavior, the brain releases endorphins – a group of brain chemicals associated with numerous positive physical and mental health effects.
Endorphins are natural pain relievers that can help boost the immune system, reduce stress and anxiety, and lower the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
Engaging in playful mental activities has also been found to improve cognitive function, boost memory, and may even prevent age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Playgrounds for the elderly
The first playground for senior citizens was built in China in 1995 and now these playgrounds can be found in many different countries, including Japan, Finland, Germany, Austria, England, Scotland, Spain, Canada, and the U.S.
In New York City, there is even an adult preschool where grown-ups come to get in touch with their inner child by doing crafts, making playdough models, and going on field trips.
Playgrounds for older adults look just like the ones for children but the equipment is adjusted for the exercise needs of seniors. According to Cedric X. Bryant, the president of the American Council on Exercise, these playgrounds are designed to promote “balance, flexibility, and range of motion, all of which can help with the functional capabilities of older people and allow them to do more of the things they want to do.”
Playgrounds for seniors have an added benefit of helping older citizens develop new relationships and remain socially active, which has a protective effect on the brain and could actually prolong life.
How to have more fun as an older adult
There are a million ways to inject more fun into your daily life as an older adult. Choose low-impact exercises such as yoga, tai chi, or dance classes for seniors. Taking pottery or other art classes, such as drawing and painting is another fun way to boost mood and let your inner child out.
Outdoor activities such as fishing, bird watching, or gardening can be tons of fun, especially for seniors who love spending time in nature.
At the end of the day, whatever activity you choose the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should enjoy every moment of being playful and not take yourself or life too seriously.