Aging and a Playful Viewpoint

Another stage of life other than our work persona is the social aspect of our various life experiences. Now that I am in my wise elder years, having lived a long and adventure-filled life, I witness many around me who are also in their sixties, seventies, eighties, and even nineties who live with a zest and a vitality that I think has been a key component in such a long life.

Now I also live in a multi-age community and love hearing the young children as they get off the school bus or as they play and laugh so uninhibitedly, a lesson for all of us. However, the older citizens I socialize with – those that have a vitality of living – do something playful!

I play tennis four to five times a week for ninety-minute doubles matches. And it’s all for fun. Even though it is competitive and robust, no one remembers the score later. It’s just fun!

And I compete with some seventy- and eighty-year-old active adults that make me hope I am able to be so mobile when I reach that age. We also laugh a lot, but not at each other. It’s at the play itself when funny things happen, as the unpredictability of tennis shots are often part of the fun, even for skillful players. For others it might be dance, art, or other sports. Whatever is fun.

Self-styled psycho-neuro-immunologist Paul Pearsall contends that we often think with our hearts rather than our heads. He wrote in “The Heart’s Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of our Heart Energy” that we humans have a cellular memory. But the wisdom he most expressed in a couple presentations I heard was that laughter increases the health of our heart and our physical system in general. Whether right or wrong, he stated that seven good belly laughs each day led to an increase in endorphins and influenced a healthier body-mind system.

Norman Cousins’ account of healing through laughter was described in his groundbreaking book, “Anatomy of an Illness” as Described by the Patient, which inspired research into the effect of emotions on health that continues to this day. When he was ill with a chronic condition and watched comedic movies over and over, he reported how the laughter improved his health.

Dr. Patch Adams, famously played by Robin Williams in the movie, was famous for being a doctor with expressive humor as part of his treatment approach. He once stated, “Remember laughing? Laughter enhances the blood flow to the body’s extremities and improves cardiovascular function. Laughter releases endorphins and other natural mood elevating and pain-killing chemicals, improves the transfer of oxygen and nutrients to internal organs. Laughter boosts the immune system and helps the body fight off disease, cancer cells as well as viral, bacterial and other infections. Being happy is the best cure of all diseases!”

In Gesundheit! Dr. Patch Adams reminds medical providers, “Your goal is not to hurt people or belittle suffering, but to bring fun to those who are suffering.”

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

So what do you do for fun? What would you like to do that you are not? How often do you laugh? What dreams have you given up on that may be adaptable today? Who can you share with what you haven’t shared about silly ideas? What would you do if having fun were the only criteria? The following are some suggestions:

  • Watch funny YouTube videos that make you laugh and smile. There are many.
  • Find a playmate. Who can you invite to do fun things with?
  • Make a playdate. Schedule spontaneity, and decide to have fun on purpose.
  • Laugh more. There is even training in Laughing Yoga. Google it, and giggle with it.
  • Be a kid again. Research has shown, once you immerse yourself in kidlike environments, it impacts your mind and body. Fly a kite, swing on swings, play tag, and throw balls and Frisbees. Find some kids from your friends and family to hang around, and learn to remember play.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. As the late Richard Carson famously said in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, “It’s all small stuff!”
  • Write in your journal. Then find someone to get naked with about your insights and things you can share that will make your life more playful.

Now, taking lightness of being with you, I encourage you to now learn more about the shadow of your life and what it holds both in dark secrets, but also wonderful possibilities that have not been in full view.


Similar Posts