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Why Play is Important for Home Care Patients

This article was submitted by guest blogger, Bryan Agurcia (*)

Play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith shares his observation: “The opposite of play is not work, it is depression."

Play for healthWe can make certain assumptions about our clients. They are older adults, retired, may or may not have family nearby, need some type of assistance with certain basic tasks in their home, and the number of friends they have is decreasing each year.

All these assumptions can make anyone feel depressed! Life is not easy, and your attitude as you age is within your control and can ALWAYS benefit from some type of playful or fun activity. Always.

The definition of play according to the National Institute of Play is:" … a state of being that is intensely pleasurable. It energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens, renews a natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities."

Here are some examples of play taken from Sutton-Smith's last book "The Ambiguity of Play":


        playing with metaphors

   flower arranging

        playing tricks





   create a play






   playing music

        kite flying

These are but a few of the many examples in the book. I do not expect caregivers and clients to do all or any of these but only present how diverse play activities can be but are not usually  thought about as play. 

A most basic question for a caregiver is what is the client’s quality of life?

A definition I like to use for quality of life is: The degree to which a person enjoys the important possibilities in his or her life. 

How much joy/play/fun can or may exist in a client’s day or life is dependent upon being aware that we, as caregivers, can create an environment just by our tone of voice, the joke we decide to tell, the book we decide to read out loud or the music we decided to expose ourselves or our clients to on our visit.

Consider as study which found  that most people will listen to the greatest variety of music up to about age 30 and then never go past what they are comfortable with at that age.   

I decided to experiment with one of my clients while training her at home. I saw old records and asked if we could play them while working together. She liked the idea and we started playing them upon each visit.  I noticed how she would sing and dance every time without a care in the world. So, I was curious to explore more and asked if I could bring in any music I could find.  So, I started just picking music randomly at the library for myself and then sharing it with her. The results: she has enjoyed the exposure to different types of music that were foreign to her. She is exposed to something novel and experiences joy doing it. This is part of a playful spirit: explore and discover without pre-judgement. Research has shown that a playful attitude without fail has a positive effect mentally, socially, emotionally and physically at EVERY age!

This I am certain of with my daughter of 8 and my client of 86: I have to have the intention of bringing more play into my day and theirs and this requires nurturing the child in both of them and myself.

I believe the opportunities to bring play in the lives of caregivers and clients is infinite. It only takes the commitment that PLAY is a serious developmental requirement of people throughout the lifespan, the recognition that growing older in the United States of America is NOT easy, and that the child in us requires nurturing and caring for our entire life and not only in  childhood. 

Be Playful,

 Bryan Agurcia describes himself as a Wellness Imagineer.  His mission “ … to help enrich our lives with more daily  PLAY which helping us achieve  a more balanced and meaningful life.” Bryan has been a personal trainer with a Masters in gerontology for 22 years. He embraces a holistic approach which puts PLAY at the center of our life ultimately affecting our emotional,spiritual, social and physical self. Bryan blogs regularly for the Newton and Brookline Patch publications. Read more by Bryan

 At Ezra Home Care, we know that caregivers with an optimistic disposition have a strong ability to meet the challenges inherent in providing care. Finding the right caregiver requires more than simply matching your needs with the skills of a qualified individual. Our goal is to place one or more caregivers in your home that you and your family can develop a personal bond with. Read more about our caregivers.

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