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Fun & Activities for Seniors: Why Play Is Important and How to Do More of It

Do your ideas about activities for seniors need an inspiring lift? You wouldn't be the first person to say yes. After all, it's sometimes easy to forget how much fun life can really be—regardless of your age. Joyful pursuits are what make us feel truly alive, engaged, and connected. The world becomes more vibrant and inviting when we give ourselves permission to play.

That's why it's such a good idea to explore all kinds of different options for having fun. Every senior deserves to pursue enjoyable pastimes that make him or her laugh, lose track of time, or feel like a goofy kid at heart. Plus, many of the best activities for senior citizens cost little or no money. (For example, being silly—just for the sake of it—doesn't have to cost a single penny.)

So discover why it's important to have more fun, and explore ideas for how to go about doing exactly that. This article will show you why it's perfectly normal—and necessary—to love playing and having fun as an older adult.

What Is Fun Anyway?

That may seem like an odd or very basic question, but it's worth taking seriously. Besides, fun might be a little harder to define than you think. We all have own ideas about what is fun or pleasurable. The kinds of experiences that create the feelings we think of as fun are extremely diverse and wide-ranging. No two people share exactly the same responses to every type of experience.

Even so, it's important to maintain a helpful awareness of the general concept, especially if you're a senior. Fun shouldn't be ignored by anybody. You're never too old to benefit from it.

So, what's the best way to define fun? Maybe we should think of it this way: Fun is the intense enjoyment you feel when doing a voluntary activity that offers a consuming sense of positive engagement. Sometimes, it's the result of being free to play without expectations or the pressure of potential consequences, much like children do. And, of course, fun is the complete opposite of boring. Fun lightens your heart.

Why Is Play Important for Seniors?

Here's where the subject of fun and play gets really interesting. The importance of play can't be overstated. That's true for everybody, but it might be particularly true for seniors. After all, in our later years, many of us become more prone to issues that can affect our health and happiness. So any activities that can help us restore or prolong our vitality are essential. Having fun is a lot more powerful in that regard than most people probably realize.

In fact, scientific studies continue to show that play and fun activities—for older adults or people of any age—can have several major benefits. For example, play has the power to help:

  • Improve how your brain works. Do you want to maintain your memory and optimize your ability to learn new things? Playing and having fun—on a regular basis—can help you avoid memory problems and enhance your creativity and mental sharpness.
  • Heal, establish, or maintain relationships. Our social lives are incredibly important for our overall well-being. However, a lot of seniors are lonely. In fact, on average, seniors without spouses or partners spend about 10 hours alone each day.1 But fun and play can enable seniors to make new friends or improve existing relationships. After all, things like laughter and friendly competition are known to increase harmony, trust, empathy, and intimacy among people who experience them together.
  • Improve your mental and emotional well-being. Do you like the way you feel when you have a brighter outlook on life and your sense of time recedes into the background? Engaging in fun and playful activities can expand your optimism, multiply your moments of joy, and reduce your stress. It can even help you prevent depression.
  • Extend your life and improve your physical vitality. Who doesn't want to feel younger or more energetic? Creating plenty of fun moments in your life can be a good way to boost your immune system, reduce your risk of illness, and minimize your perception of any existing pain you might already have.

As you can see, play should be a major part of life for everyone. We can all probably use many more experiences of pure child-like joy. It's who we are, no matter our age.

Fun Activities for Senior Citizens: 9 Popular and Inspiring Kinds of Play

Most of us would probably say that a passive activity like watching TV is entertaining. But does it really rise to the level of being fun? On its own, maybe not so much (especially if you're watching alone). That's why it's often a good idea to pursue other kinds of activities—the kinds that make you an active participant in something.

Of course, the possibilities for doing that are practically endless. But you can narrow them down by thinking about your unique personal interests and capabilities. Focus on voluntary activities that don't come with any kind of obligation or that offer some flexibility in how you can enjoy them.

Are your existing hobbies still good sources of fun? If so, keep pursuing them and consider inviting some friends—or even your grandkids, if you have them—to join you. Teaching other people about something you have a passion for can be highly enjoyable and rewarding.

Also, did you know that adults over the age of 65 tend to list physical activities as being their favorite pastimes? According to one study, four of the top five activities most commonly cited by seniors as being their favorites were active in nature. They included activities like walking and jogging, gardening and yard work, playing sports, and other physical pursuits. Other favorite activities included reading, arts and crafts, existing hobbies, games and puzzles, and socializing.2

Here's the bottom line: You get to decide what's fun for you. Even if you can't be as active as you want because of a disability or advancing age, you can still find plenty of opportunities for playing and having fun. And many activities (even physical ones) can be adapted to accommodate your particular capabilities. So pay attention to your heart. Keep doing anything that makes it feel lighter and causes you to smile.

Explore the following activity ideas for some inspiration:

1. Active Games and Sports

A lot of fun games for senior citizens involve physical activity. They give you the opportunity to get some exercise, improve your hand-eye coordination, and feel a sense of control over the physical world. All of that can be very satisfying, especially if you get to overcome fun obstacles or compete with other people in a friendly way. Consider examples like:

  • Golf
  • Miniature golf
  • Pool
  • Shuffleboard
  • Bocce
  • Tennis
  • Badminton
  • Pickle ball
  • Croquet
  • Ball tossing
  • Frisbee tossing
  • Balloon volleyball
  • Beach ball volleyball
  • Traditional volleyball
  • Horseshoes
  • Lawn bowling
  • Indoor bowling
  • Wii Bowling
  • Curling

2. Dancing, Karaoke, and Performance

Activities in this category can give you the experience of truly living in the present moment. They can make it seem as if time has stopped while generating feelings of pure joy or engagement. Dancing to music can connect your body to exciting and healing rhythms. Singing popular songs (even badly) in front of other people can help you enjoy the humor in your efforts and avoid taking yourself too seriously. And performing in other ways—such as acting in a skit or trying a stand-up comedy routine—can remind you of how fun it is to tell stories in new or creative ways. Take a chance and try activities like:

  • Line dancing
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Salsa dancing
  • Swing dancing
  • Seniors' karaoke
  • All-ages karaoke
  • Acting in a play
  • Telling jokes to an audience
  • Reading books to groups of young kids
  • Writing and acting out skits
  • Participating in comedic improv
  • Starting a seniors' dance troupe

3. Parties and Other Social Gatherings

Socializing can be a powerful way to inject more fun into your life. That's particularly true if you get to reminisce about old times or talk about the other things that interest you. In fact, a good conversation may elevate your mood and outlook more than anything else on this list, especially if you keep things jovial. So don't shy away from attending other people's parties or joining clubs. Also, consider planning some of your own events. These days, it's possible to plan parties around all kind of fun themes such as:

  • Casino night
  • Murder mystery
  • Trivia night
  • Mexican fiesta
  • Ugly sweaters night
  • The 1920s, 50s, 60s, etc.
  • Masquerade ball
  • Arabian nights
  • Mardi Gras
  • Pirates
  • Hawaiian luau
  • Jungle bash
  • The Oscars
  • Formal tea
  • Secret Santa

4. Traditional Games and Puzzles

These kinds of activities are perennial favorites for people of every age. But they are especially popular with older adults as well as with younger people who want to figure out some easy and fun things to do with seniors they care about. Board games and card games provide great ways to socialize and benefit from the joyful challenges of friendly competition. And puzzles can help sharpen your mind and give you a sense of progress and accomplishment. Consider games or puzzles like:

  • Uno
  • Scrabble
  • Pictionary
  • Yahtzee
  • Bingo
  • Checkers
  • Chinese checkers
  • Dominoes
  • Monopoly
  • Chess
  • Backgammon
  • Cribbage
  • Go Fish
  • Poker
  • Bridge
  • Mahjong
  • Canasta
  • Rummy
  • Solitaire
  • Crazy Eights
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Word search puzzles

5. Animal Interactions

Who can resist the affection and playfulness of cute and cuddly animals? Just like people, they want and need to have fun. So playing with them can be mutually beneficial. Besides, it's often easy to find animals to play with even if you don't have any pets. For example, many animal shelters welcome seniors who want to give dogs, cats, or other critters some quality attention and playtime.

6. Gardening, Bird-watching, and Other Outdoor Activities

As long as the weather is good, being outside can do wonders for a person's mood. After all, the natural world is full of pleasurable sights, sounds, smells, and other sensory delights. That's why many activities in the great outdoors are so fun. They let you feel like an explorer or like you're connected to something larger than yourself. Consider activities such as:

  • Gardening
  • Bird-watching
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Picnics
  • Boat rides
  • Metal detecting
  • Kite flying
  • Nature photography

7. Arts and Crafts

Did you get to play with things like crayons, paints, glue, and Popsicle sticks as a kid? Do you remember how fun and freeing it felt to channel your energy and creativity into making something new? Your imagination probably came alive as more and more new ideas streamed into your mind. So why not recapture some of those same feelings by playing with various arts and crafts? These kinds of creative recreational pursuits are great for people of all ages, and they often make terrific elderly activities. Ideas such as the following can reignite a person's vitality and sense of what's possible:

  • Finger painting
  • Watercoloring
  • Oil or acrylic painting
  • Sketching
  • Pastel drawing
  • Ceramics
  • Mosaics
  • Woodcraft
  • Polymer clay modeling
  • Papercraft
  • Beading
  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Embroidery
  • Quiltmaking
  • Card making
  • Jewelry making

8. Active Learning

Learning is always more fun when it's something you choose to do for its own sake. Whole new avenues of possibility reveal themselves. As a result, you can experience a lot of playful optimism, which builds on itself and leads to more new discoveries and opportunities for exploration. So follow your curiosity and impulses. You're never too old to learn something new. As examples, consider learning how to:

  • Sing or play a musical instrument
  • Speak a foreign language
  • Use computers more effectively
  • Write code
  • Design websites
  • Take professional-quality photos
  • Write great stories
  • Cook exotic meals
  • Decipher hieroglyphs
  • Perform magic tricks

9. Amusing Excursions

Getting out and about to go do something that's outside the ordinary is often a prescription for fun. Many great options exist, especially when you gather a small group of people to share the experiences. You may not be a kid, but that doesn't mean you can't go on field trips for some laughter, excitement, exploration, and social bonding. Consider excursions to places or events like:

  • Theme parks
  • Carnivals
  • County fairs
  • Comedy clubs
  • Hands-on science museums
  • Adult arcades
  • Concerts
  • Sporting events
  • Plays
  • Art shows
  • Wineries
  • Beer festivals

Make Fun a Top Priority

With so many great activities for seniors to choose from, it would be silly not to play as often as possible. So get back in touch with your child-like qualities and start celebrating them. Having fun is simply too important to ignore. You deserve to smile!