Play, especially in the form of vacations, long weekends, and play through travel has a tremendous potential to serve as a gateway to a healthy lifestyle. Play is what psychologists call an intrinsic motivator, meaning that play is its own reward because people play finding it satisfying to them. Intrinsic motivation can be especially effective in supporting regular behavior that can otherwise be difficult to sustain, such as physical activity.
“People shared their stories -- all races, all genders, people out walking with their dogs. It was an opportunity to create a community around something that was healthy and fun. We know that having someone with you to walk, and with that accountability, really does make it more fun.”
Julia Alexis, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at AARP Public Policy Institute, discussing the AARP Fit & Fun Challenge daily walking challenge.
As the number of people who are living to 100 increases, so does the need for play and travel. The traditional three-stage life comes from the industrial revolution, where youth is devoted to learning and playing, adulthood is devoted to working and play and travel does not reemerge until retirement. However, as many people are experiencing increased longevity with multiple careers, the need to retrain at midlife and work well beyond the traditional age of retirement, we increasingly need benefits of play and travel at all ages.
AARP Thought Leadership and Research have been working on better understanding what we call the “Longevity Economy,” which measures the economic contribution of people 50 and over – $5.6 trillion in 2015 – and it’s growing. The leisure and hospitality sector accounts for over six percent of consumer expenditure’s impact on GDP. We are asking for all sectors of our economy to create programs that increase opportunities for play for all ages, no matter what your zip code or ability level.
There is strong evidence that the chronic stress in minority communities, along with a lack of access to opportunities’ to play and travel, contributes to health disparities. Dr. Thorpe, a gerontologist, added his own observations to this research. “I work at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and you see it three blocks away. You have an area with broken sidewalks that deter people from walking and food deserts all over the place. Crime deters people from going outside.”