In a recent Facebook photo, Peggy Brown stands with a group of women dressed in tutus and toasting with glasses of bubbly. Her caption: My Street Beats dance class tonight. The tutus were in honor of someone’s birthday. Then we had Champagne (the uppercase “C” is deserved; it was Moët et Chandon!). There may be a video later. Sooo fun! (I’m the oldest by far—15 to 30 years, or more!) I love this class so much!
Retirement resembles a funfest for Peggy. After a 30-year career as a Newsday reporter and editor, she embarked on a mission to get fit and have as much fun as she can cram into her life.
Almost every day, Peggy, 69, heads to her local gym in Babylon, N.Y., taking a range of classes from yoga to dance to krav maga, a self-defense method used by the Israeli army. “I am having a ball,” Peggy said in a recent phone call. “I enjoy all the classes even the krav maga where I’m the oldest person by 30 or 40 years.”
Fun is too often missing from our lives. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted, “…many adults forget how to have fun. They’ve spent the past 40 years showing up for work every day, paying off mortgages, getting kids through school and taking care of aging parents. Having fun and being spontaneous —a key element of fun and play—gets lost. It’s considered nonproductive, which makes some people feel guilty.”
What defines fun? For some, like a friend’s husband, it’s playing endless golf; for others, it’s planning trips. Yes, those activities fall under the recreation heading but there’s another type of fun: spontaneous, silly, seemingly without any redeeming value (it won’t burn calories or get you better golf partners).
Apparently, not much research has been done on fun and older adults except for one study in (where else?) The Journal of Play. The study, which looked at 46 people, 65 years and older, found 15 qualities of playful older adults. They defined them as:
“happy, optimistic, cheerful, amusing, positive, enthusiastic, and relaxed. In everyday exchanges, they tend toward mischief, naughtiness, clowning, joking, and teasing; they embody fun and humor in ways that translate into laughter and amusement in others. Although impish, they are circumspect about their behavior in ways that teenagers have not yet mastered. Nevertheless, again, they continue to approach the world with a measure of creativity and whimsy.”
Beyond the gym, Peggy has embraced play by going to concerts (from Southern rock to classical), trying different restaurants, making friends of various ages, and planning vacations. Through a gym class, she met the owner of a small company and landed a part-time job as an editor.
Her son, a medical student, recently home on summer break, asked her to slow down and sit with him to play video games, commenting that she is always on the go. “Yes, it’s kind of insane at times,” Peggy said, adding with a laugh, “but I do occasionally take a nap.”
–by Mary W. Quigley
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