Senior Playgrounds (cont'd)

My post on Senior Playgrounds attracted the attention Kate Rauch, senior editor of Caring Currents. Her post led me ultimately to this clip from Good Morning America.

Thus unfolded yet another gift of the Internet - a further connection to a story, and the people, that touched the core of my faith in play.

I must admit that, now that I had become better informed, I found myself feeling slightly disappointed in the way this moment of senior enlightenupment seems to be manifesting itself. The playground had the look of one of those exercise trails. It was clearly designed to appeal to the "use it or lose it" school of mortality - not to the sense of fun, fantasy, freedom that characterizes children's playgrounds. And it was for "seniors only." (I find myself most attracted to the intergenerational approach, as in Intergenerational Playgrounds and this wonderful story of Intergenerational Kickball, and even the kind of play that's being enabled by the infamous Wii).

Nevertheless, it is something to be glad about, this Senior Playground idea. And it leaves one wondering: why don't we see things like this everywhere?



from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Senior Playgrounds

Yes, Virginia, there is a Senior Claus. According to this article in yesterday's Daily Mail, "Britain's first playground for the over-60s" opened yesterday, in Manchester, England. I quote:
"Instead of slides and roundabouts, it is equipped with machines specially designed to provide gentle exercise for different parts of the body such as hips, legs and torso.

"The Massage offers upper body exercise, the Skate trains leg muscles, the Ski works the hips, while the Press tones the stomach and legs.

There are also stations for pull-ups, push-ups and pedalling and, to stretch the mind as well as the body, engravings of quotes from famous philosophers dotted around the park."
Whatever does what, the important thing is that someone who understands our need to play is paying attention to us outgrowns, at last.


via Neatorama
from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Sound and Fury at the Educational Centre for Games in Israel

I learned about The Sound and the Fury more than 30 years ago, when I first joined the New Games Foundation. Since then, I've been teaching it almost every chance I get. I have my reasons, in deed I do. It's a great way to get people involved, engaged, open, willing to play, exploring their own capacities for public silliness, and a perfect introduction to the idea of Coliberation.

I had the chance to teach the game again with some rather remarkable people in a rather remarkable place. The remarkable thing about these people was that they came from all over Israel because they value play and games and toys as tools for restoring health. The remarkable place was called "The Educational Centre for Games in Israel." And the remarkable woman who invited me to speak was its director, Helena Kling.

I first encountered Helena through her work with the International Toy Research Foundation. I found the following description of Helena and her center in an old issue of the ITRA newsletter
"Helena is by profession a psychologist specializing on Children’s Play in Hospita, and has for many years been working on projects about play. At present running the Educational Centre for Games in Israel, a non-profit association which she describes as follows:'We have a small building full of stuff, a veritable 'heritage centre' of play; there is 'hands on play' available; a work room where people can make games and toys; an exhibition room with miniature rooms and two model railways; a library that has become a centre of information on play; a large collection of Israeli board games and collection of collections and dolls and so much more that if I go on writing about it I am afraid of disbelief!'"
Such wonderful energy. Such a deep commitment to play. Such an honor. Such a fun person to play with.


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Stack revisited

I am certain you recall that Stack received a Major Fun Award a little over 4 years ago. In fact, it was a recipient of several awards: the award, the award, the much-touted award, and even, oddly enough, it was found most . And you probably even recall why.

I, on the other hand, have been exploring the game in greater depth, especially recently as I work more and more with various groups of seniors hereabouts. And what I have been exploring, actually, is the, shall we say, "Super Stack" set - two different sets of the Stack game (the deluxe, jumbo, of course), each set having different color dice, thereby enabling me to play a game with 8 people.

The large dice that come with the deluxe version prove to be especially comforting for senior eyes and hands. Easy to read, even at a distance, enjoyable to hold because of their greater heft, and easier to stack because of their larger size. Having enough for eight people makes the game ideal for building a sense of community and friendship. Because the group is larger, people don't can play at a safe distance from each other (psychologically safe), but because they're all sharing the same set of dice, they feel connected. If we need to, we can easily divide into smaller, more intimate groups. But having all those dice means that each player has twice as many options to consider. On the one hand, it makes the beginning of the game that much easier and more inviting. On the other, it makes the endgame that much more dramatic. Stacks get built, options constantly get fewer and fewer, the need to play strategically gets more and more vivid.

Stack, even with only 4 colors, has never disappointed us as a game for almost all ages. But having twice as many dice turns out to be more than twice as flexible, twice as interesting, for at least twice as many people.


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Games Tasting at the Senior Center

Our first meeting at the Veterans Park Senior Center in Redondo Beach began with a game of Tumblin-Dice - a kind of tabletop shuffleboard played with dice. It was at least as effective, and fun, as I had thought it was going to be - easy to learn, challenging, and yet with enough luck to keep people from taking it too seriously. Especially, given that people had come into the center expecting to learn more about how to play Texas Hold 'em. Even older people, who had difficulty standing, were moving around, waiting for their turn with very apparent glee. The only obstacle was keeping score - doing the arithmetic calculations of adding and multiplying the spots on the dice - which, of course, is part of the challenge for children as well as seniors. Since this was the first game we played, I helped with the scorekeeping. Trying to slide the dice into the scoring areas was more than enough to keep people focused on fun.

But the event really didn't become major fun, until we started playing A to Z. At first, there were just enough players so we could have one for each of the 4 boards. There are two dice - one, the category die, determines which of 6 questions you are trying to answer, the other, the timer die, determines how much time you have (15 or 30 seconds), and two special events - one that allows you to cover up any empty space, and second which lets you take chips off the board of any other player.

As I taught the game, I suggested that we ignore, for the time being, both of the dice. When it was someone's turn, that player would pick a card, select any one of the six categories, and start the timer (giving themselves 30 seconds). I think, because we knew we were ignoring some of the rules (cheating, perhaps?), the game became even more fun. Later, when more people came in, we had to share boards, so it became a game between teams. And this made the game even more fun. Individual players didn't feel so pressured because they were part of a team. We all knew we were kind of cheating (picking whatever item we wanted from the category cards, disregarding both dice), so the game became a shared thing, one that we had all adapted, for our own use, for our own fun.

And major fun it was.

So major that this very story is the topic of today's FunCast



from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Intergenerational Kickball

Funscout Kris Bordessa sent me this link from today's West Hawaii Today. If you're not already a member, you have to join (name, email address). I'm not really much of a joiner, but if Kris, author of Team Challenges (you can listen to my interview here), tells me to look at something, it's gotta be worth the price of membership. So I click. And I look. And look! It's about Intergenerational Kickball!

And I read more. And I'm so moved. And so encouraged. Almost to the level of thinking "my job here on your planet is done," if you know what I mean. Not to prejudice you. Here. Read this. And you tell me.
"'You can tell we don't have any rules here,' joked mother and game coordinator Lani Bowman. 'We had one of the dad's come who's a baseball coach and he couldn't handle it.'

"Actually, there were quite a few rules that were announced as the game went on. First, and most important for the mature players in the game, was no beaning anyone over 40. But feel free to wallop anyone else with the ball as they run wildly past.

"Everyone gets to kick twice before the sides switch and you can start running when the pitcher releases the ball. Plus, someone has to run for 85-year-old Auntie Rose after she kicks.

"These are the types of things childhood memories are made of -- cool and clear Sunday afternoons with kids and "grown-up" kids screaming, running, laughing and getting dirty with little structure attached. For the group of 10 participating in this intergenerational kickball game at Kamehameha Park in Kohala this Sunday afternoon, the only thing they needed to worry about was the occasional rock in their shoe....

"'I love to mingle with the children,' said Rose Ramos, who at 85 was the veteran player of the group. 'The children are having fun so to be a part of it is fun.'"
Intergenerational Kickball. Organized for the fun of it. And because people were looking for "a way for the keiki [kids] in the area to interact with their elders and each other to build a stronger sense of community in an area that struggles with poverty, broken homes and drugs."

And they sure found a good one!

(see also my collection of Intergenerational Games.)

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Bard Lindeman on Aging

Several participants at Esalen were well into their Seniorhood. I was touched by their openness and playfulness. This led me on a search. I found this:


As senior adults, and outrageous older men, we are well-advised not to take life too seriously. Further, we have license to keep alive within us that inner child. "We are intended to remain in many ways childlike," anthropologist Ashley Montagu once wrote. "We were never intended to grow up into the kind of adults most of us have become. We are designed. . . to grow and develop in ways that emphasize rather than minimize childlike traits."

An educator, as well as a shrewd observer, Montagu suggests we have only to watch children to understand the essential nature of fun and abandon. To children, curiosity is as natural as breathing. From curiosity comes playfulness, open-mindedness, the willingness to experiment, flexibility, humor, energy, and, of course, imagination. To my mind, none of these qualities is precluded by aging. Therefore, we outrageous guys have every right to test ourselves by asking the following question: "How many of these behaviors do you see within yourself today?"

Because confession is good for the soul, I admit that I sneak into swimming pools. Just like some kid, I find a way to cross the line from outside to inside because I like to swim and I especially enjoy trying Out different pools. Much like the boy who collects baseball cards, or the matron proud of her row of antique clocks, I collect pools where I have beaten the gate, so to speak.

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