You’re Never Too Old to Play Outside

by Jeff Shaw

By Glen Collins, founder of Autside

Encouraging active lifestyles for aging seniors is important to supporting their health and overall well-being. For residents in senior living communities, playing outdoor games is a stimulating way to stay physically and mentally active, socialize with others and enjoy nature — all of which can positively impact quality of life and even improve longevity.

Sedentary seniors: A dangerous stereotype

As people grow older, their bodies experience various changes that can impact the ability to stay active. There is a common misconception that aging seniors are generally frail and weak. However, encouraging people to “take it easy” and lead sedentary lifestyles because of this stereotype can be harmful or even life-threatening.

Cornhole is an amenity that is affordable, builds community and encourages physical activity.

In fact, activeness can prevent or minimize the impacts of debilitating diseases. In studies of people age 50 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that physically active individuals are much less likely to suffer from chronic health conditions.

While some older adults require support with daily activities, many are still able to enjoy active lives. Physical activity is an important facet of holistic well-being and offers numerous benefits for the mind, body and spirit. Some key advantages include increased strength and energy, heightened cognitive and mental function, less stress and anxiety, and better rest.

Regular exercise also improves mobility, flexibility and balance, which reduce the risks of falls and other injuries. It is shown to boost cardiovascular health as well, decreasing the chances for diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

Humans crave connection

Socialization is another important aspect of overall well-being for aging seniors. They crave authentic human connection as much as anyone else.

Unfortunately, older generations are alone more often than in their younger years, separated from loved ones and friends by death, distance, loss of mobility or other causes. Chronic loneliness can lead to poor health outcomes, including cancer, heart disease, cognitive decline, depression, weakened immunity and premature death.

Even those surrounded by other people are vulnerable to loneliness, according to experts at the National Institute on Aging.

Social benefits of outside fun

When exploring amenity options that encourage social connection, yard games are a no-brainer. Outdoor recreational fun can be enjoyed by all generations. Furthermore, many games can be adapted to accommodate various physical abilities to make them more accessible and enjoyable for aging seniors. Making these amenities a regular part of seniors’ routines will maximize the benefits of staying active and socially engaged.

Team-oriented activities that are safe and accessible for aging seniors include bocce ball, horseshoes, cornhole, shuffleboard and croquet. Pickleball — one of America’s fastest-growing sports — also provides terrific entertainment for more active individuals. Vibrant senior living environments across the nation are increasingly adding this popular game, which is quick and easy to learn and less strenuous compared to high-impact sports like tennis.

These exciting outdoor amenities serve up more than just friendly competition. They foster camaraderie, community and inclusivity, deepening the sense of belonging in residential settings. Just as important, socially focused recreation supports human health and happiness by combatting the crushing feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and is a way for seniors to stay physically active.

Premium amenities maximize investments

Clearly, there are many advantages to offering active, socially engaging outdoor amenities in senior living communities. To maximize the impact of these investments, property decision-makers should carefully consider the quality, design and functionality of products.

Choosing high-quality, well-designed amenities made for long-lasting use makes a lot of sense for recreational spaces. Top-grade materials resistant to wear and tear are ideal for outdoor use. Sturdy construction makes transportation and storage easier while reducing the likelihood of property damage. Also, premium products usually have reduced maintenance and replacement needs, making the return on investment even greater.

Clever designs that maximize space are optimal for any property, especially those wishing to offer a variety of amenities without sacrificing valuable real estate. Outdoor games like bocce ball and cornhole can be set up in various locations, allowing residents to engage in different activities without taking up permanent space. Portable pickleball systems also allow property owners and managers to flex valuable space as needed.

Innovative designs are another value-added perk of premium amenities. Games with built-in scoring systems, for instance, can enhance play experiences. Sophisticated systems engineered for easy setup and tear down or convenient travel and storage are also trending. The same goes for products with multifunctional capabilities, such as a carry case that doubles as a cooler, drink stand or seat.

Creative and attractive outdoor elements also add visual interest to properties. Games with eye-catching designs, bright colors or unique shapes can leave lasting impressions on residents and visitors alike. Strategically placing outdoor games in courtyards, along walkways and in other public areas can create an inviting atmosphere and promote socialization among residents.

By choosing quality amenities that are attractive and elegantly designed, communities can create a welcoming and engaging atmosphere that promotes socialization and enhances overall well-being.

What’s more, design-forward features go beyond traditional outdoor amenities and appeal to a wider variety of interests and interactivity. They optimize the function and value of outdoor living spaces through enhanced performance, flexibility and curb appeal.

Play builds community

Offering entertaining yard games in outdoor living spaces can positively impact the dynamism and culture of senior living communities. These experiential spaces encourage social interactions while making physical activity more appealing. Even family members and friends can join in the fun and create lasting memories with their loved ones. As an additional benefit, outdoor play builds a sense of community by making properties feel more inclusive and welcoming.

For those seeking a competitive edge in the marketplace, seriously consider all the advantages of making outdoor living spaces active and socially engaging. Amenities promoting health and wellness usually make a great impression on potential residents and their families and may even attract a more diverse clientele. It demonstrates a commitment to providing a vibrant and engaging environment for aging seniors, which is oftentimes a key factor in decision-making.

Creating healthier, more enjoyable living experiences is an important goal for any senior living community. Adding energizing yard games to a property’s portfolio of amenities is usually easy and cost-effective, making it a great strategy to support the overall well-being of residents.

Glen Collins is the founder of Autside, a lifestyle brand that develops premium-quality outdoor games and accessories with an emphasis on design and social good.

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