How do recreational activities help seniors live longer, healthier lives?
When we think of the benefits of recreational activities for seniors, the first thing that comes to mind is often the enjoyment value. And while the importance of enjoyment value can’t be overstated, there are also important emotional, cognitive, and physical benefits to recreational activities.
Senior citizens, especially when they’ve experienced health setbacks, are often at a higher risk for depression and anxiety than other age groups. Organized recreational activities can help reduce this risk in more than one way. Skill-based or creative activities foster a sense of competence, which boosts self-esteem, while group activities create bonds among participants, helping stave off feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Studies consistently show that seniors who keep their minds stimulated are better able to ward off cognitive impairment as they age. Among the best ways to do this are creative activities, such as painting or playing a musical instrument. Additionally, games requiring strategic thinking, such as cards or board games, offer considerable cognitive benefits.
Recreational activities – even those not fitness-oriented – can help get seniors moving. Physical activity is known to protect against a variety of health ailments, and the activity doesn’t have to be strenuous or extended to be of benefit. For a senior who rarely leaves their home, just the activity involved with leaving their home is beneficial. When you add in recreational activities that challenge hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, or flexibility and strength, the benefits multiply. In one 2011 study, researchers found that seniors who participated in recreational activities – even less physically demanding activities – lived longer than those who didn’t.
United Way of Williamson County supports the community’s most vulnerable by working with Health partners such as FiftyForward-Martin Center and FiftyForward-College Grove to ensure seniors have access to safe and engaging recreational activities.