Systematic Academic Reviews 

Our research team conducted three systematic reviews of the play, aging, and planning discourses to clearly establish that there is virtually no research on planning for older adult play.

We analyzed 1,572 presentation abstracts from leading play conferences, 140 WHO-recognized age-friendly best practices from around the world, and 3,800 articles from urban planning journals. We read and analyzed all kinds of amazing things. But we found almost nothing about play and older adults, let alone planning for older adult play. 


Developing a Framework

Before attempting to make recommendations for the realization of aging playfully, we had to establish its conceptual foundation. We developed the Sociospatial Environmental Wellbeing + Play conceptual framework. The framework conceptualizes how the interrelationships between physical and social environments and individual competencies produce an environment that can either enable or limit wellbeing. We theorize that play can promote positive interaction and generate new (and reinforce existing) enabling environments.


Play in Private vs. Public Spaces – Florida, USA, Case Study

Planning for older adult play first requires an understanding of how older adults play. To gain insight into the playful behaviour of older adults in public space we developed the Study of Older Adult Play Spaces (SOAPS) tool. We used the tool to analyze the play and playful interactions of older adults in a retirement community in Florida, USA. We also interviewed 10 seasonal residents of the community to get a better understanding of the differences between play in private versus public space. We found that accessibility, flexibility, and density are incredibly important elements of older adult play space design.


Age-Friendly Planning and Play: The Study of Older Adult Play Spaces (SOAPS) Observation Tool (under review)

Perception of Play – Victoria, Canada, Case Study

To get an understanding of older adult perceptions of play, play space, and what limits and enables play in public space we conducted a photovoice study in Victoria, BC, Canada with 14 older adults. Older adults spent a week taking pictures of their environment as it relates to play and then we held several focus groups to discuss the pictures. Our first finding was no surprise – older adults love to play! We also found that navigating public space can be very complex and that changes to sensory perceptions have an enormous role in facilitating joyful, playful experiences. 


Expert Insights

We conducted interviews with children’s play experts, age-friendly practitioners, and professional planners from around the world to get a better understanding of their thoughts, reactions, and ideas for older adult play. We found that every single one (with the exception of one play expert in Brazil) of the practitioners had never even considered the idea of older adult play. They had only ever thought of play within the context of children. However, they all quickly realized the enormous potential of the aging playfully concept and were quick to point out opportunities and challenges from their professional viewpoint.


  • Planning for Play, Linking Ages: A Dialogue Between Childhood and Ageing Research (Routledge) 
Public Social Spaces – Sao Paulo, Brazil, Case Study

Public spaces are not limited to outdoor environments. Indoor, public social infrastructure also has a critical role in enabling or limiting play. We partnered with the International Play Association Brasil to examine play in older adult community centres in vulnerable neighbourhoods in São Paulo, Brazil to understand how play-related activities foster feelings of cohesion, confidence, and much more.