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Having Fun: An Overlooked Skill of Aging

Amanda Lambert - December 05, 2018 02:03 PM

Laughter, enjoyment, impulsiveness, and spontaneity. These are some ingredients of “fun,” a critical part of aging that needs more focus. Laughter is indeed the best medicine. My mother is 93 years old.  She is having fun now, but that was not always the case! She and my Dad moved to independent senior living about a year ago and it has been fascinating to see how they have adapted and changed. My mom goes to yoga, attends wine and cheese events and book club. I would probably not describe her as a person who looks to have “fun,” but I think she has seized the moment and taken advantage of what life is now offering. She is happier because of it. As a self -described introvert, the adjustment has been fascinating to see. This article takes a look at the importance of having fun in our lives, and the lifelong habits we have formed that make it so difficult.  “Playful older adults are psychologically upbeat: they are happy, optimistic, cheerful, joyful, positive, relaxed, and enthusiastic individuals.”

What Makes Having Fun So Hard?

As I reflect on my own life, I am grateful that I have my pinochle group (we don't always play, but we always laugh a lot) my golf buddies and the hikes I take with friends. However, like many of you I have been a task -oriented person my whole life. Who among us hasn't been? We raise families, have jobs, and have the endless lists of things to do around the house. It's a habit that is hard to break. The "creep" of social isolation is something to be avoided, but it takes a dedicated and concerted effort to stay connected.

The Caregiving Challenge

Being a caregiver for a family member can make having fun even more challenging. The stigma attached to dementia, adds to that challenge. Our work ethic can take over when caregiving. You may feel as if you are never doing enough. If you are a caregiver, here are some tips to keep active, stay engaged and help your family member in the process:

  • Be open and honest with friends and family about the fact that you are a caregiver. Let them know you need and want to stay connected.
  • Seek out activities that are enjoyable for you. Chances are those activities are beneficial for the person you are taking care of as well. As much as possible, don’t give up long standing social commitments. Your health and well being are critically important to your role as a caregiver.
  • Consider in home care. Be clear that you expect a hired caregiver to keep your family member engaged. Be specific about the activities your family member likes and be open to trying new ones as well.
  • Harness the healing power of laughter. If your family member has an illness, is recovering from an injury, or has dementia, consider humorous movies. Podcasts of favorite comedians are another possibility.

Life has its inevitable ups and downs as we age. Control what you can to feel empowered and maintain a positive attitude. Even the most serious situations usually have a humorous side, and a little laughter can bring enormous relief.  Role with the punches, and have fun along the way!

Amanda Lambert is the owner and president of Lambert Care Management, LLC which provides care management for older and disabled adults. She is the co-author of, Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). She has worked for over 20 years in the senior-related industry including mental health, marketing, and guardianship. She has a passion for topics related to health, wellness and resilience as we age.

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