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10 Ideas for Seniors to Reignite Their Sense of Play
Elizabeth Bemis

By: Elizabeth Bemis on October 13th, 2021

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10 Ideas for Seniors to Reignite Their Sense of Play

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In a recent post, we explored The Truth About Play & Why It’s Not Just for Children, detailing how the practice of play impacts the human mind, body, and soul—and why it’s so important for seniors to engage in play regularly. From neurology to physiology and psychology, the benefits of play for seniors are clear and present, which is why this topic has become such a popular one. But as people age, they often lose their sense of play and its priority in their lives. Here, we’re exploring 10 inspiring ways to help seniors reignite their sense of play and find the fun again.

1. Play a board game.

You’re never too old to break out a game board and bring on the fun. Fancy a round of Scrabble, Yahtzee, or Monopoly? Or perhaps you favor some strategic games like chess or checkers. Not only do board games like these support a healthy sense of play, but they also promote brain health and mental agility. Many board games require the use of reasoning for choosing their next move, anticipating the moves of opponents, and developing an overall strategy. You might even consider planning a recurring game night with friends or family to ensure playtime stays on schedule.


2. Play a card game.

You’ve likely played some type of card game throughout your life, from poker to pinochle or anything in between. It’s a great opportunity to socialize and connect with other players. Plus, playing cards isn’t just recreational. Research suggests that playing hands can actually improve motor and cognitive skills, and some studies have indicated it can help head off dementia and Alzheimer's disease. So, grab a deck or two, and deal out some fun!


3.  Play a video game.

Video gaming is no longer reserved exclusively for younger generations. In fact, a 2021 survey indicates that seven percent of video game players are 65 years and older. What’s more, video gaming and virtual reality applications can actually have rather significant social, cognitive and physical health benefits for seniors. While some older adults may have a certain fear of technology, a little time and patience can go a long way in terms of learning how to play video games. It could even be a wonderful chance to connect with the younger “gamers” in your life. 


4.  Play an instrument.

Music has long been considered a form of play for the human spirit. And research shows that music can boost mood, reduce stress and agitation, foster positive social interactions, coordinate motor function, and facilitate cognition. Even in older adults who live with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the human brain naturally responds to music. If you’re a musician who hasn’t played in a while, think about taking it up again, at whatever pace feels comfortable. Or leverage the power of music by learning to play a new instrument. This is a fun hobby that can be enjoyed either alone or in the company of others.


5. Play a sport.

Maybe you’ve assumed that sports are no longer feasible or practical after a certain age, but think again. Whether you’re attracted to traditional sports or more unique ones—like table tennis, bowling and shuffleboard—consider re-engaging your sense of play through active sports games. Aside from being both competitive and fun, sports offer incredible advantages to seniors, including improvements in hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, muscle strength, and cardiovascular health.


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6. Play with arts and crafts.

Nothing can ignite a sense of imagination and play quite like time spent relishing the arts. Studies have indicated that creative tasks, like drawing, painting, knitting, woodworking or beading, can help increase concentration and focus, and may even promote a calm, meditative state. Depending on your interests and abilities, experiment with different art mediums and craft projects. Express your sense of play through artistic forms that feed the soul and encourage fun. For an added social component, think about joining an art club or planning a craft event with friends. 


7. Play outdoors.

Getting out in nature can be a fantastic way to play. From simple walks and hiking trails to fishing trips, beach visits, bird-watching, or picnics, consider how you might leverage the outdoors to create a sense of fun. There are seasonal opportunities, like leaf-peeping in autumn, snow games in winter or gardening in the spring, and a plethora of ways to play year-round. Let the fresh air stir up some invigorating ideas for outdoor fun. 


8. Play with children or animals.

It’s hard to ignore the limitless opportunities for playtime when you’re in the company of children, who are seemingly always looking for ways to have fun. Spend some quality time with grandkids or volunteer at an organization that works with youth. Doing so can have a profound impact on a senior’s physical, mental and emotional health. If you’re an animal lover, playing with pets is another highly engaging activity for fostering fun. Animals have a special way of bonding with seniors and helping to brighten their day. 


9. Play on the dance floor.

Get your whole body into the groove with the energizing practice of dance. From boogie-ing down at a wedding or event, or participating in a dance class, this is an ideal way to reignite your sense of play. It’s one of the most healthy and pleasurable activities a senior can do. Whether you’re a fan of formal dance or simply enjoy bopping to some tunes in your own home, let your inner spirit free through the power of dance.


10. Play out scenes on stage.

The performing arts are a particularly fun way to engage in play for seniors—all while helping to boost self-esteem, confidence, and independence. One potential outlet is community theater, where seniors can play a variety of important roles both on and off the stage. Opportunities include everything from lead characters and ensemble parts to backstage and front-of-house activities. If you’re an admirer of the stage, this just might be your ticket to unleashing a healthy sense of play.


Making Play a Priority


For some seniors, finding opportunities for fun and play can become increasingly challenging as they spend their days living alone or lose touch with the many connections they once had. Therefore, it’s important to think about whether your surroundings support your sense of play and well-being, or whether a positive change might be in order. 


Senior living communities are ideal places for engaging in moments of play throughout the day. They provide a special environment where socialization, human contact, and the potential for fun are plentiful. Consider checking out the communities in your area, and see if this option might be the right one for you or the senior in your life.


To find out how United Methodist Homes provides a wealth of offerings and opportunities to support the health and wellbeing of our residents, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now. For additional tips on senior health and lifestyle issues, check out our blog


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About Elizabeth Bemis

In 1998, I drove past an assisted living community construction site, learned that it was part of United Methodist Homes and realized the next stop on my professional journey was to work for a mission driven organization. Soon after, I joined the team as Executive Director of our Middlewoods of Farmington community and later served as Regional Manager for the Middlewoods properties before accepting my current role as Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, walking, and love working alongside our staff, residents, and families to build strong communities that reflect the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.