PLAYFULNESS IN OLDER ADULTS

“It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.” – D.W.Winnicott
Older adults are an important part of the population, and according to Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics the older adults are growing in numbers, living longer and are more active than the previous older generations. Research shows that majority of the studies focused on the health of older adults related to problems and diseases. Therefore few researchers have tired to look at the playful disposition of adults and its influence on their health. Yarnal, 2004 opined that playfulness also holds great potential for contributing to healthy aging. Elder, Johnson, and Crosnoe (2003) have also stressed that playfulness and having fun in later life may contribute to the maintenance of cognitive functioning, emotional growth, and healthy aging overall. Bartlett and Peel 2005 define this playfulness of older adults as a “process of adaptation to physical and psycho-social changes across the life course to attain optimal physical, mental and social well being in old-age.”
Guitard, Ferland, and Dutil (2005) identified few playful characteristics of older adults which are creativity, curiosity, pleasure, and a sense of humor. Playful older adults are mischievous, naughty, have a disposition towards being funny. Carver and White opine that these characteristics show the cognitive capacity of older adults.
Playful older adults are happy, joyful and enthusiastic in their approach to life which shows them being positive emotionally. Tugade and Fredrickson refer to this disposition of Playful older adults as being ‘psychologically upbeat’. Research studies by Miller and Ferland suggests that playful older adults can be a very novel and at their creative best too.
Research studies have proved that by encouraging playfulness in older adults it would help them to deal with everyday stressors, leads to healthy ageing, can balance between positive and negative emotional health as well good cognitive functioning.

Sources:

Yarnal and Xinyi QianOlder (2011), ‘Adult Playfulness An Innovative Construct and Measurement for Healthy Aging Research’, American Journal of Play, volume 4, number 1, pg 52-79.

By Dr Srividya K