We all remember when our mothers, fed up with having us in the house, told us to “go out and play!” Play is not just an essential part of development for children. It is an important source of health and longevity for adults, a way to connect with others, fuel creativity, and assure emotional well-being.
Have you found yourself a little bit grouchy, or staying in the house more and more? Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, told the Washington Post that adult play deprivation can reveal itself in many ways. “We might get cranky, rigid, feel stuck in a rut or feel victimized by life,” he notes, adding that to get the best rejuvenating benefits of play, we need to make it part of our everyday lives, “not just wait for that two-week vacation every year.”
Is there something you loved to do when you were young that you simply haven’t had time to do in years? Perhaps you were into art, sports, or social activities with others. Researchers say that incorporating regular play and activity into our daily routines can mean a boost in longevity. Playtime has been found to speed up learning, reduce stress, enhance productivity, increase life satisfaction, and build bonding and communication skills with others.
Opportunities abound for mature adults to get out and play. For over 42 years, the Seattle Parks Lifelong Recreation program has been serving the community with vibrant adult programs that focus on physical activity, social engagement, education, arts, creativity, and healthy lifestyles for people 50 and up. Brenda Kramer, manager of these programs, says, “Whether someone is looking for creative fitness classes or wanting to learn something new, we serve adults of all abilities and provide a variety of options, including learning and social activities in 26 community centers across the Seattle metro area. Through recreation classes, special events or the many day trips we offer, our participants are exploring new places and learning new skills.”
Kramer adds that activities go beyond an extensive line of fitness classes. “People can learn to kayak through the aquatics program, hike local areas through Sound Steps, or take one of our popular day trips to fun destinations around the area. Our social activities give participants opportunities to enhance their aging experience and build lifelong friendships.”
An important aspect of play is that it includes more than one person. Joining others and building camaraderie around play creates social connections that keep us healthy as we age. According to the National Institute on Aging, research shows a strong correlation between social interaction and health among older adults—while social isolation is a major risk factor for loneliness, depression, and even early death.
“Some people are really proud of completing a half marathon for the first time, or developing an unexpected new skill,” says Cheryl Brown, who also works in Seattle’s Lifelong Recreation program. “All of our programs take place in community, where people meet others who have similar interests and they develop new friendships that keep them happy and active. We design programs to serve adults of all abilities, whether they are physically active already, just starting out, or even with certain disabilities like early onset dementia, in addition to Rainbow Recreation and culturally relevant activities for immigrant communities. Our focus is to improve wellness, build community, and provide plenty of opportunities for play.”
Playtime and learning add quality of life through greater contentment and health. Fun is for people of all ages. It adds joy to life, relieves stress, supercharges learning, and lets you engage with others. It keeps you feeling young and energetic.
Mother knows best, so take time to go out and play today.
Kellie Moeller has worked in the senior housing industry in the Northwest for more than a decade. With an insider’s view and a passion for serving seniors, she gives a fresh perspective on aging.
Find ways to play
You can find out more about Seattle Parks Lifelong Recreation Programs by visiting seattle.gov/parks and searching for “Lifelong Recreation.” Most communities offer similar programs for older adults. Check your city’s website for details.