Merrily Orsini's Thought Leadership

Playfulness May Be One Key to Intellectual Longevity

Do you have grandkids or have exposure to those at differing ages and interests than you? Do you spend time each day in some kind of mental exposure to things outside work, or drudgery? Can you say that you enjoy life and have a smile on your face most times during the day? Turns out that some good old fashioned fun in life may be one key to keeping the mind (and body) healthy.

When I was assessing frail elders for their options for care in the home, I had a wrinkle rule that worked 100% of the time. That rule was to look at the lines on the face, and if those lines were pinched around the mouth, that meant the person was, indeed, a sourpuss. The face lines do not lie. At rest, a face is either a reflection of happiness or a reflection of the pain, suffering, hardship, meanness, or cruelty that has imprinted itself after a lifetime of living those feelings and actions. And, working with those pinched-faced folks, was, indeed, a lot harder than working with those who had smile lines and took life easier.

There is research emerging now that spans the spectrum of things that may help or harm the brain, but, it is clear that doing things differently, trying new things, getting outside, moving, eating healthier and socializing are all good for the brain and the body. Barring genetics and some predisposition to disease, the world is a place to continue to explore as you age. The world is a place where you have to take chances and do things outside your comfort zone. The world is a place meant for multi-generations to mix and mingle.

We have somewhat lost the extended family component of our society, but you can make your own family. All is takes is a smile, over time, and some kindness, and you will find that others gravitate to that kindness, and sooner or later, you will be rewarded with kind acts in return.

If you live alone, see where you can go to help others. Start finding time in your day to mix with those not just like you, either in age or socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Like to cook? Take some cooking classes. Like to garden? Make some raised beds and try new vegetables or exotic flowers. Like to read? Go to the library and read to some kids, or to a hospital and do the same.

Got the trend? Mind games, body games, people games. Think about how you can add some levity and playfulness in your life and your relationships and, I guarantee you will find it rewarding now, and if the new research is right, well into the future.