Did You Have Fun Today? Did you laugh? Did you try something new or silly just for the fun of it? Pine Run Retirement Community is always focused on the seven dimensions of senior wellness in all that we do: Physical; Emotional; Intellectual; Social; Spiritual; Environmental; and Occupational. One area of wellness that is not talked about enough, especially in senior living, touches all of these. And that is play.
You may think of play as the “work” of children. It’s common knowledge and well-accepted in our society that children learn, grow, and develop social structure through play. As we age, there is less focus on play. Recess typically disappears from schools by sixth grade, crayons come off of the school supply list even earlier. Older kids are encouraged to focus on college readiness and internships, and as we age, our lives are continuously filled with jobs, families, and responsibilities that sometimes leaves little room for play.
There is a growing body of research, led by Dr. Stuart Brown, head of the National Institute for Play, among others, that indicates that play is as basic a natural phenomenon as sleep, and, like sleep, many of us aren’t getting enough of it. Research tells us that a life with too little play can make us more susceptible to health risks large and small, including depression, a decreased immune system, and stress-related diseases. The National Institute of Play also states that a culture devoid of play may even experience higher rates of interpersonal violence and crime. By incorporating more joyful, non-repetitive activities in our lives, Dr. Brown argues, we are able to replace these health and societal risks with a greater sense of well-being for ourselves and our communities.
There a strong connection between the practice of play and the emotional and cognitive development of the brain. So not only will engaging in play (which could include physical activity or sports, a creative practice such as painting, or simply giggling with your grandchild) improve your physical and emotional wellbeing, it can reinforce patterns in your brain and optimize the learning process. An over-looked component of senior wellness in many communities, Pine Run intentionally fosters opportunities forplay .
“Having fun, trying something new, pursuing a passion or hobby or simply finding a reason to smile everyday are encouraged for all Pine Run residents throughout our continuum,” said Mara Santangelo, Pine Run Executive Director. “All of our Associates, no matter their area of responsibility, are challenged and encouraged to support our residents throughout all of the dimensions of senior wellness, including finding joy in each day.”
For residents in The Village, Pine Run’s Independent Living cottages and apartments, play takes place individually and collectively and is offered and encouraged in many ways. You can see play in action at our puzzle table, or in the various games of scrabble, Rummikub, Mahjong, or billiards. Various departments work together to create venues and times to set the stage for play. Whether it’s a scheduled pool volleyball game or fitness class, a pop up game of corn hole, or a week long version of the Olympics knows as the Villager Games (with serious and silly events including cup stacking, Jenga, shuffleboard, and a torch relay through campus), the fitness team frequently incorporates play into their offerings. The Activities and Dining staffs also routinely collaborate on fun. Regular happy hours on the deck overlooking the Pine Run pond with delicious hors d’oeuvres and a band provide the setting for meeting new neighbors and connecting with friends.
Trips off campus to restaurants, arts and culture venues, and other local attractions are offered regularly and provide multiple ways to enjoy outings in the company of others. “Shared experiences and friendships are so important in the aging process,” continues Maria Santangelo. “Senior isolation can lead to negative health outcomes, so designing programs that encourage social interaction that appeal to introverts and extroverts alike is important at Pine Run,” said Santangelo. “We’d like everyone to be engaged at a level that is comfortable for them. With so much going on, there is bound to be something that is appealing, no matter how you define fun!”
Play is also incorporated throughout life in Pine Run’s higher levels of care, including Lakeview Personal Care, Short Term Rehabilitation, Skilled Nursing Care, and Memory Care. Our Life Enrichment teams offer multiple opportunities for “formal” play in the form of games (from group Wordle, Scrabble, or Bingo), pop-up manicures, trivia, performances by outside groups, mindfulness, fitness, pet therapy, book clubs, movies, art, gardening, and so much more.
Residents in the higher levels of care can also pursue quieter interests that bring joy from reading, crossword puzzles, listening to music, talking with a friend in the garden, or playing the piano. Residents also enjoy play through helping others. Recent offerings include a bake sale to benefit Ukraine and making dog biscuits for sale to benefit a local animal rescue. Dining incorporates play by delighting residents with their creativity. Recent events include: many sweet treats for the taste buds such as hot fudge sundae bars, milkshake, French fry bars with all of the toppings, and water ice. Dining also dazzles with more formal menus and occasions.
“In short, play is good for us mentally, physically, and emotionally,” says Santangelo, “Creative ways to build play into the framework of our Villagers lives is a part of the mission of Pine Run and helps in all dimensions of senior wellness.” How have YOU played today?