As our population ages, there is increasing emphasis on teaching and learning lifelong recreational skills. Research has shown that recreation is an important part of an individual's social behavior. Recreation plays a critical role in the lives of older adults by contributing to an improved quality of life. People who participate in recreational activities as senior citizens report significantly more life satisfaction than those who do not.
Physical recreation is especially important. Engaging in physical activity reduces almost every risk of disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes. Participation in recreational activities improves mental health, as well. Again, research shows that older individuals who participate in recreational activities have better coping behaviors in response to stressful life events and daily frustrations. They learn that social support is important, and available, through these activities.
Unfortunately, we have come to view our older years as a time of diminishing activity and social interaction. As a result of these expectations, aging folks often assume they are incapable of recreational activity or that it will not be available to them. They often cite scarce financial resources, lack of transportation or declining health as reasons for avoiding these important activities. Although there is some validity to these concerns, we often overlook the increasing resources that are being dedicated to wellness among senior citizens. Some of these resources are:
- Travel programs. Fees are usually required, but deep discounts for seniors are often available.
- Volunteering. Seniors bring valuable experience, wisdom and compassion to others
- Elderhostel. A world-wide travel program bringing affordable adventure and learning to seniors
- Theme parks. Senior days! Special entry fees!
- Entertainment and arts. Museum and theatre tours often provide discounts and transportation to seniors
- Local parks and recreation programs. Great outdoor activities
- Community Gardening. Check with your local parks and recreation office
- Senior citizen centers. Free or reduced price meals and more!
- Book clubs. Reading and socialization are a potent therapeutic combination for the brain
It is important for senior citizens and those who care for them to seek out recreational activities even at this time when they may be reluctant to do so. Research indicates that seniors who participate in these kinds of activities tend to remain active once they begin.
Western cultures sometimes view their aging populations as economic and social liabilities. In fact, when they are nurtured, they become assets. Recreational activities can provide help and motivation that seniors require to enable them to contribute their valuable time and wisdom in return for that nurturance.