At the ILC Future of Ageing conference, a group of experts met to discuss the importance of play throughout the life course and its vital role in alleviating detriment to physical and mental health in older age.
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, Chair of the Campaign to End Loneliness and Chair of the Baring Foundation, argued that activities including arts and physical activity should not be limited by chronological age.
On the contrary, Kenny Butler, Head of Health and Wellbeing Development at ukactive maintained that play was a necessity to facilitate a fulfilled and healthy lifestyle. He pledged that more should be done to facilitate opportunities for people across the life course to engage in fun activities.
Paul Cann, Chair of Entelechy Arts urged governments, charities and community organisations alike to ensure that more activities be made accessible and available for older people. He highlighted the importance of social prescribing as an opportunity to reduce loneliness and enhance the physical and mental wellbeing in later life.
Michael Kreft von Byern, Board member of Europa-Park and Chair of the Tourism Committee of the German Chamber of Commerce moreover stressed that businesses should design products and services that cater to the needs and wants of people of all ages.
Baroness Sally Greengross OBE, Chief Executive of the ILC, argued that more should be done to remove the stigma associated with play in old age and to combat the assumption that play should end with adulthood.
Regular engagement in creative and community activities has been shown to significantly delay the onset of dementia and reduce loneliness. Research by Brigham Young University reveals that loneliness is a bigger killer than obesity or smoking 10 cigarettes a day.
And indeed, recent figures show young and old alike want to engage in fun activities. The market for adult toys continues to grow as adults spent £383m on toys for themselves in 2017 – a £30 million increase compared to 2016. Moreover, TV shows such as Lego Masters and The Great Model Railway Challenge demonstrate a growing desire for adults to play across the life course.
At the ILC Future of Ageing conference, Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, Chair of the Campaign to End Loneliness and Chair of the Baring Foundation argued:
“There’s more to life than being washed, dressed and fed. Somehow that gets lost in translation when we provide activities for older people. Why is that? Because we have a poverty of aspiration for what a good later life looks like. We forget that older people, like you and me, enjoy opportunities to play and have fun, be silly, be creative, to sing or dance, to paint, to laugh, to feel the fresh air in their lungs and the sun on their skin.”
“So I’m always inspired when I hear about choirs and artists-in-residence in care homes, silver comedy, dance troupes like Green Candle or Sadlers Wells, and ‘Posh club’ cabaret tea dances. I love those that give time for fun and laughter, friendships to form, and enable the voices of older people to be heard.”
Kenny Butler, Head of Health and Wellbeing Development at ukactive pledged:
“No matter what your age, those who play and have fun stand the best chance of maintaining happy, healthy lives. It doesn’t matter how you get active so long as you keep moving.”
“With 90% of the UK population living within 20 minutes of a gym, leisure centre or wellness hub, ukactive is helping to reimagine these places to ensure they are welcoming, inclusive and accessible. By focusing on the needs of an ageing population with co-morbidities we can have a real impact on the health and wellbeing of those who need these facilities and services most.“
At the ILC Future of Ageing conference, Paul Cann, Chair of Entelechy Arts, argued:
“Play is fundamental to us all whatever our age. Understandably but sadly public policies and practices for older people lay much of the emphasis on safety, comfort, nutrition and money to get by. We need to ensure that whatever your age, you have something to get out of bed for, whether that’s a dance group, an art class, or a walking group, whatever fires you up.”
“Social prescribing is our big opportunity now. At the heart of the new loneliness strategy, all GP practices will be putting in place arrangements to guide patients towards activity that will help them live life and not simply survive to the next round of medication. This should be great, as long as our ‘social prescribers’ are equipped with all the communication skills and understanding of the available opportunities to be truly expert guides.”
Michael Kreft von Byern, Board member of Europa-Park and Chair of the Tourism Committee of the German Chamber of Commerce commented:
“Older people are very active and want to enjoy their free time with all experiences possible. For us at Europa-Park, it has always been very important to include all ages and to create a theme park where visitors across generations can enjoy a great day out together.”
“Many of our visitors first visited Europa-Park when they were children themselves, and are now bringing their own children along with grandparents. This is the best proof that our concept meets the spirit of our time and is valued by our guests.”
Baroness Sally Greengross OBE, Chief Executive of ILC concludes:
“All the evidence points towards the obvious: We don’t stop wanting to play and have fun just because we reach a particular age. We want, and indeed need, to play throughout the life course to maintain happy and healthy lifestyles. Rather than relying on ageist assumptions that play is reserved for the youngest of society, we need to remove the stigma surrounding play in later life to give all members of society the opportunity to make the most of the benefits longevity can yield.”