Play is not just for kids!

I had Physical Therapy today. There is the ever-present lower back/leg pain, and then my neck and shoulder started tightening up as well. So Physical Therapy has been good, teaching me strengthening exercises to stabilize some of my weaker muscles. My therapist was proud of my progress today on neck strength and movement. Now we will focus more on lower back and core stability. The theory is that this will alleviate some of the pain. I certainly hope so. I understand that a lot of it will be up to me to keep up with the exercises. Our bodies age, and joints wear out. We do what we can to keep our weight down so the extra pounds do not aggravate our joints. Exercise does help. I know I feel better after a walk. Like anything else, it has to be a priority. My motivation for reducing pain and staying flexible is that I want to still be able to dance, I want to still be able to play with my grandkids, I want to still be able to garden, and I want to still be able to visit National Parks and take amazing walks in the parks.

Which brings me to play. All those things I stated as my motivation are on my “fun list.” Do you have a fun list? It is helpful when you find yourself in a funk and you want to find a way to get out of it.

For many of us, who have been dedicated to careers, we don’t really know how to play. It has been a long time since the innocence of childhood, and the freedom from responsibility. In the book, Project Renewment, there is an entire chapter on Play.  It explains that we spend years living by the company rules, fulfilling employer expectations, and hopefully receiving rewards for our work. Now we find ourselves in a time without expectations or rules to follow and we may feel adrift.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Giving ourselves permission to play may be difficult. Changing old habits and patterns is difficult. I am still working a lot of hours on the Hey, Boomer show and developing other opportunities for people to work with me. Many of you are retired already, and without the regular schedule, it can be difficult to know how to fill up your day. I am working on getting better at giving myself permission to play.

I looked up the definition of play in several dictionaries. Merriam-Webster,, Cambridge Dictionary. All of them described play as “spending time doing enjoyable activities … especially as a child.”  And if you look up “why is play important” you will find hundreds of articles on the developmental advantages of play for children. I had to scroll through several pages before I found an article about the advantage of play for adults. In adults, the only kind of play that seems to be acceptable is competitive play.

But that does not resonate with me. Among other things, research shows that in children, play helps them build social bonds, it relieves stress and helps them develop cognitive and creative skills. In my opinion, these are important outcomes for adults also. One of the biggest challenges aging people struggle with is loneliness. If play builds social bonds, it seems like play would be something we want to add to our lives.  How about relieving stress? Daily living stresses are compounded by the stress of the political climate, the pandemic, climate change. Playing may not fix those larger problems, but it can relieve our stress. And we all know that we think better when we are more relaxed. And if play helps children develop cognitive and creative skills, it seems like it could at least help older adults discover new creative skills and enjoy and exercise their cognitive skills.

So, the question is, how do you define play? You get to choose what is enjoyable for you, what relieves stress, what develops your creative skills, and what might build or enhance your social bonds. Below are some ideas. Pick what works for you and share other ideas with our readers. And ask yourself, how you can bring play into your life.

Playing dress-up with grandkidsWalking in a pile of fallen leaves
Coloring/drawing/paintingTaking a dance class
Learning to play an instrument (ukulele maybe?)Walking in the woods
Sitting by a waterfallHaving a bonfire, making s’mores
Riding a bikeTaking a walk
Going to an art showSinging in the shower/car/ karaoke maybe?
Going to a farmer’s marketPicking flowers and making a bouquet
Decorating a pumpkin for HalloweenCreating a new wreath for your door
Playing golf/tennis/pickleballPlaying charades with family and friends
Sharing a meal with family or friendsGetting lost in a really good book
Exploring a new townTrying out a new recipe
Going to a concertGoing to a show

As I have said before, we all grow older (hopefully), but we don’t have to grow old. What can you do today, this week, this month, to add some play into your life?

2 thoughts on “Play is not just for kids!

  1. Thank you Wendy for your article that is relevant to me and true. You offered good ideas. Fall lends itself to desire for creativity with Halloween, and the upcoming holidays. I always wanted to make my own wreath as an example. I agree too that it adds motivation and anticipation to one’s life. I enjoy going to craft fairs and seeing too what others have created which inspires me too. I had called a senior center near me yesterday to see what activities they offered which could add some fun too in the near future. Though I enjoy being more outdoors as the weather is perfect for it right now so that is my goal currently and hope to add others as it gets colder like decorating etc.

    1. Josephine, I appreciate your comments, as always. I have bought stuff to make a wreath. I will share a picture when it is done. And maybe one of the pumpkin(s)? I decorate. Hope you will share some pictures of what you create also!

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