"You Think You Are Too Old to Play?" Playing Games and Aging
Health deteriorates with age due to hormonal changes and reduced physical, mental and social activity. In turn, this deterioration can lead to a wide range of problems including a fear of undertaking any forms of physical movements. Reports from exercise-based studies indicate there might be considerable improvement with appropriately programmed exercise workloads. However, the lasting effect of such programmes seem to be doubtful as a lot of the elderly drop out along the way, sensing it to be too "organized" and too stressful. Therefore, we claim that some traditional games, as a form of physical activity, can serve its role in engaging elderly adults. They do not require high level of specialization and technical perfection and may also be useful as a form of physiotherapy, particularly with elderly individuals who suffer age- and health-related problems.
Play as a form of physical, playful activity is essential for healthy development of any individual as it seems to facilitate the linkages of language, emotion, movement, socialization and cognition. As a movement activity, it is a rather free-spirit activity that makes a positive difference in brain development and human functioning. Although rooted in biological aspects of life, play needs to be associated with cultural aspects of human development. Especially with the elderly population, this social and also cognitive stimulation is sometimes more important than physical. So in our paper we ask: what potentially positive effects can a traditional play/game have on the elderly people?
Since there has been no research on the health-related effectiveness of such games, in this article we will highlight this problem from a number of different angles as a proposal for various community-based exercise programmes. This will allow us to design and adapt those games, specially to the health needs and social interests of this particular section of the population. It is also meant to serve as a proposal for potential future research.