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July 02, 2021

Returning to Play

Do you remember the feeling you had as a child, getting lost in play—hours going by until suddenly dusk was falling? Maybe you rode bikes or built elaborate make-believe worlds. Maybe you collected rocks or climbed trees. When children play, they make sense of the world in creative, experimental ways. Science now shows playing is a catalyst for learning, helping to organize concepts, develop motor skills, and test ideas. As we grow older, school life tends to take primary focus, and we tend to think of “play” as something people “grow out of.” Rather than considering play a basic mode of being human, we think it’s merely the antics of youth.

What does play have to do with senior living? As it turns out, everything. Play is actually essential to a balanced life—across all life stages. Dr. Stuart Brown founded The National Institute for Play, based on research in the biological, social, and physical sciences. Says Brown, “Play is as basic and as pervasive a natural phenomenon as sleep…Play helps us deal with difficulties, provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery of our craft, and is an essential part of the creative process. Most important, true play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work.”

While it may seem like play is a luxury, when we make room in our lives for play—our overall health and well-being benefit dramatically. Play isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Science shows that play helps with emotional regulation and contextual memory. What’s more, depression, stress-related diseases, and other health problems can be linked to prolonged deprivation of play. Says Stuart, "The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression." Brown explains, “Play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy, and promotes a sense of belonging and community.”

That’s why Fieldstone Communities considers opportunities for play as much more than an avenue for entertainment. If play is crucial to exercising your mind, promotes healthy social relationships, and enhances problem-solving, well then—we definitely all need more of it as adults!

But what do we mean when we talk about “play”—especially across all age groups? Once we’re older, we’re likely not going to be making mud pies or playing hopscotch. In essence, “play” holds these properties: you do the activity for no other reason but that you enjoy it. You get to do it when you feel like it and you’re drawn to it. You lose track of time and self-consciousness. Play feels rewarding, leaves you feeling satisfied.

Do you need a bit of help recognizing forms of play in your life as an adult? Here are some examples of play: storytelling, dancing, gardening, skipping rocks, checkers, reading, making art, puzzles, playing or listening to music, swimming, being goofy, organizing, coloring, yoga, telling jokes, going on outings, playing pickleball, collecting things, walking, singing, and learning new things. Can you find your favorite types of play in those examples? Go back to when you were a child and try to recall what you enjoyed most when you had free time—when the time blurred by and all of the sudden it was getting dark outside. You’ll likely discover how to play again by returning to the same kinds of fun from your youth.

At Fieldstone Communities, quality of life is our primary focus, so fostering play is integral to our communities. Our mission is Together we create joyful and vibrant communities. Certainly, a key part of how we do that is through providing excellent care. The other is by creating opportunities for joy every single day. Play and joy go hand-in-hand.

Our life enrichment teams thoughtfully fill each week with opportunities for exercise, art, music, moving, and fun. Our library and movie theaters speak to the media buffs, our billiard and game room, spa & salon, yoga & fitness studio, hobby clubs, garden boxes, dances, happy hours, special entertainment guests, regular outings, therapy animal visits, and more. Make no mistake about it, foolin’ around isn’t for kids. It’s actually the stuff of a happy, healthy life. Play makes all the difference.

We invite you to connect with a resident navigator so you can see for yourself what makes Fieldstone Communities so unique. We’re passionate about people and we’re committed to infusing joy into seniors’ lives every day. Click here to connect and learn more. 

Topics: Aging, Activities, Social Wellness

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