Healthy Aging and the Fountain of Youth

Playing Hide & Seek With Your Inner Child

Did you know that on average, small children laugh over 300 times a day! Those laughs are reduced to a mere 20 times a day by the time we reach adulthood.

If laughter really is the best medicine, why aren’t adults laughing more?

Successful Aging Conference PlayRecently, we had the opportunity to explore the relationship between play and healthy aging at our local Council on Aging’s Successful Aging conference.

In our morning session, “Your Daily Dose of Fun,” we shared the ample research that shows engaging in Authentic Fun can help us age successfully by enhancing our cognitive abilities, our physical and emotional health, and our sense of connection to ourselves, others and life itself.

In our afternoon Playshop, “Get Your Game On,” we put the research to the test by immersing ourselves in transformative fun and games designed to encourage silliness, belly laughs and our sense of well-being and vitality.

 

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!

We were inspired as we played with these healthy and hearty seniors who not only knew where to find their inner child but also how to bring it out in each other. We very quickly lost count of our laughs in the midst of these light-hearted seniors, and it became hard to tell who was the oldest (or the youngest) in the room.

Together, through play, we had discovered a fountain of youth, and we were quite happily splashing around in it.

Interestingly, all this child-like silliness has a very scientific explanation (for those of you who need that sort of thing).

As we played kinesthetic, imaginative, and puzzle-cracking games, we were embracing our neotenous nature – our uniquely human ability to retain creative, playful characteristics throughout adulthood. You see, neoteny not only helps us survive, it helps us thrive in constantly changing circumstances.

Avoiding the Rut of Routine

As children, we continuously engaged in exploration, experimentation, boundary testing, imaginative play, creativity and improvisation. Unfortunately, as we age, we tend to rely on the “tried & true” as a means of expediency and safety – often to our own detriment. When we find ourselves stuck in a deep rut of routine, we are unable to see the many opportunities for joy that life presents in any given moment.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

The seniors attending our Playshop shared an intuitive understanding of play’s role in healthy aging. But in case you feel the need to justify your neoteny, here are just a few of the scientifically tested reasons to play more:

ToiletPaperA 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that people who continue to participate in fun and challenging activities may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 75%!

Learning acquired through play is retained longer and is more apt to be recalled.

A National Geographic study revealed that engaging childlike, playful activities is as important as diet and exercise for fostering the legendary Okinawan longevity.

Awe and wonder, positive emotions we experience when we playfully explore our universe, have been shown to reduce inflammation, which is associated with arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

 

And, most importantly, play feels goodIsn’t that reason enough?!

If your funny bone needs a workout or you can’t remember the last time you had fun, our life coaches can help you explore how to live and age more playfully.

It can be helpful to work with a co-conspirator when you are trying to liberate more joy—which is what the Fun Conspiracy is all about!

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