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Playful Wisdom: The Villager Games Unveiling the Art of Well-Being
Kevin Mallon

By: Kevin Mallon on November 30th, 2023

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Playful Wisdom: The Villager Games Unveiling the Art of Well-Being

Thrive Wellness

In the vibrant tapestry of Pine Run Village, a Presbyterian Senior Living Community, the recent celebration of Active Aging Week 2023 was not just a week-long event—it was a lively showcase of the profound connection between play, physical and mental fitness, and the overarching goal of our communities: empowering residents to develop a holistic healthy lifestyle.

The Villager Games took center stage during this celebration, embodying the three guiding principles of Camaraderie, a Can-do spirit, and a splash of friendly Competition. Eight team-oriented events, including Water Volleyball, Bocce, Walking Relay, Billiards, Water Relay Games, Shuffleboard, Cornhole, and even Pumpkin Chucking, unfolded on the picturesque grounds of our Doylestown, PA campus throughout the week.

The joy and laughter echoed through the air as over 50 residents and countless spectators engaged in the Fall fun. It was more than just a series of games; it was a testament to the importance of intentional play in fostering whole-person wellness. Each event, from the powerful bouncing maneuvers of Water Volleyball to the strategic thinking required for Billiards, not only provided physical exercise but also a platform for mental stimulation and social connection.

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As the Villager Games wrapped up with a special awards ceremony, where participants were honored with gold star certificates, place ribbons, and beautiful floral bouquets, a new dimension emerged. This year, we introduced the recognition of standout residents who truly embodied the Pine Run Spirit—individuals whose grit, enthusiasm, and venturous attitude shone brightly throughout the games, exemplifying the holistic approach to healthy living.

Now, let's connect this celebration into the broader scope of the importance of play in our lives.

Play helps:

Relieve stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.

Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—a principle that applies to adults, as well. You'll learn a new task better when it's fun and you're in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and solve problems.

Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn't have to include a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.

Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best.

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Play is more than leisure

Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute of Play, has interesting insights on play, that offer a compelling framework that resonates with the spirit of the Villager Games. He emphasizes that play is not just a leisure activity—it is critical to happiness, sustaining social relationships, creativity, and finding innovative solutions to problems. The seven properties of play, such as purposelessness, voluntary nature, inherent attraction, freedom from time, diminished self-consciousness, improvisational potential, and continuation of desire, paint a vivid picture of the essence of freedom found in play.

The seriousness of work often overshadows the importance of play. Many view play as something relegated to spare time, a luxury in the face of the relentless demands of the workplace, or an element that naturally wanes as we age. However, Brown contends that the opposite of play is not work but rather depression. Integrating play into our lives, is not just a luxury—it's a necessity for well-being.

The Villager Games stand as a living testament to this philosophy. In the hustle culture world of responsibilities and commitments, the intentional inclusion of play brings forth the freedom to enjoy life, fostering a sense of excitement and adventure. The joy and camaraderie witnessed during the Villager Games are not just isolated moments of fun; they are a reflection of the broader framework of well-being that play weaves into our lives.

As we reflect on the fellowship and fun that characterized the Villager Games, let it serve as a poignant reminder that play is not a trivial pursuit but a pathway to a more fulfilling and vibrant life. Whether engaged in a strategic game of Bocce or the exhilarating Pumpkin Chucking, the message is clear—it is never too late to play. Let us continue to energize our days, intentionally seeking out play as an integral part of our holistic approach to wellness at Presbyterian Senior Living and beyond.

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About Kevin Mallon

Kevin Mallon is the Corporate Director of Thrive Wellness at Pine Run Village. “I have a deep, internal joy for helping people make progress. I believe a focus on growth, learning and striving is what keeps our souls burning and is at the core of true well-being. People shine the brightest when we come together to uplift others. This positive, common mission creates meaningful experiences and life-long bonds.” Kevin has forged his fitness and wellness expertise through working with older adults and meeting them with presence and attention while building a supportive environment, open to possibilities. Being a 22-year member of the Senior Exercise Professionals of PA has allowed Kevin to collaborate with leading professionals on creating dynamic wellness environments that drive people to thrive. His degree is in Exercise and Sports Science from Ursinus College and he is a certified Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO). With 25 years of senior living experience, Kevin is dedicated to working with and empowering older adults to build resiliency and pursue their passions and unique abilities. He views each person as the captain of their own ship that he can help serve as an advocate in mind, body and spirit.