Play Young to Stay Young

Photo of juggling balls. Caption: When was the last time you played like a kid?Playing like a kid can save your life. Does that sound too dramatic? Consider this: Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In 2000, 46% of fatal falls among older adults were due to TBI. And what’s the leading cause of falls among older folks? Loss of balance and coordination.

Last week, I saw an elderly woman fall after tripping on a sidewalk seam. Luckily she didn’t get hurt but she was completely unable to get back up by herself. My husband and I helped her up and walked her back to her home. That really got me thinking about the need to build and maintain strength and balance. If she had fallen inside her home, who would have helped her up?

Meet A 71-Year-Old Who Never Stops Playing

Stephen Jepson believes everyone needs to play. He makes the argument that it’s not just your body that will benefit, it will also turn us into better thinkers by developing new neural pathways. When you watch the video, you’ll be shocked by some of the things he does. You might even be tempted to label him an anomaly — an exceptional human that no one else could possibly emulate — but he would not agree. In fact, he makes a very important point near the end of the video: It’s never too late to start and it’s perfectly okay to start small.

You’ve got to watch this. It’s less than 8 minutes long and I guarantee you’ll enjoy every second.

7 Ways To Start Playing Today

Are you ready to start playing? Below, I’m listing my seven best ideas but if you’ve got any small children in the house, ask them for their advice. They’re sure to come up with some interesting alternatives.*

  • Learn to juggle: If juggling seems too difficult, start by using silk scarves. They’ll move more slowly than a bean bag or other hard item, and you won’t damage yourself or nearby furniture. If the learning process makes you laugh, that’s a double benefit.
  • Take up Tai Chi: Find a local class that matches your physical abilities or find a beginner’s video on YouTube. Balance exercises and Tai Chi have been shown to decrease falls and reduce the risk of hip fracture.
  • Join a Laughter Yoga Club: Haven’t heard of it? It’s a series of movement and breathing exercises that invite laughter without using jokes or humour. Here’s how to find a Laughter Yoga club in your area.
  • Dance. You don’t have to go to a club. Turn on the radio, use an iPod, hum an old favourite.
  • Throw a Frisbee. This is excellent for stretching and developing hand-eye coordination.
  • Play badminton in the house. You can buy a foam badminton set at the Dollar Store.
  • Romp with your dog.
Photo of a dog and tennis balls in the grass.
Your workout buddy is waiting.

Over to you, now. Let us know in the comments what you’re doing for fun these days or what you’d like to try.

*Please, if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before making any significant changes. This article is not intended as medical counsel.




4 Replies to “Play Young to Stay Young”

  1. Yup, got the dog again. Got a tai chi video in 2009 but had an ailment arise that might have been as a result, as unlikely as that may be. Have to get back to it. My older brother (84) has another scuba trip scheduled for the Caribbean this summer. Seems more serious than play, but that and walking keeps him and his wife young.


    1. Hi John – How nice to have you visit my site! Re tai chi, my husband had to find a way to modify some of the movements as the twisting and turning ended up being bad for his back. He’s happy to be back into it again, but he’s quite careful. Your brother sounds like quite example for activity. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. -Susan


  2. I agree that playing is an option but so is working out with a trainer. People in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s can still benefit from a trainer that works on strength, flexibility and stability. As Jack LaLanne would often say “use it or lose it”.

    Good article Susan. I shared with my folks.


    1. Good call, Linda! A trainer will also ensure that workouts remain safe as well as challenging. I remember Jack Lalanne well. He set a wonderful example. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for sharing this post.


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