In this series of articles we are sharing our insights on how aging is a team sport. 


We recently had a VivaValet team visit to an independent living facility in Palatine, Illinois where we tested the aging as a TEAM concept in the form of play, that being, running improv comedy games with Olders. Lucky for us, our co-founder is a Second City graduate who regularly teaches and performs improv comedy. 


Improv comedy is a team sport too – but rather than call it a “team” it’s called an “ensemble” which has a clear distinction. In a team, the roles are defined and each person plays out their role accordingly, like HR, or accounting, or operations. In an ensemble, each member steps in to do the role required in the moment – you could be an astronaut and in a moment, you are a tree, it’s all about what the scene requires and you fill in what the scene needs. 


The event was scheduled for an hour. As the residents assembled, there were many stern faces in the crowd, arms folded sitting at a distance and resolute to arrive and watch with flat out refusals to participate in any group activity. 


No problem, we’ll try anyway. 


We assembled a circle of chairs and a handful of eager residents stepped in as we began, explaining that we would be doing some improv games, nothing fancy, just some PLAY. 


The real magic started once we launched our classic warm up of “pass the clap” a game where you take turns passing the clap around the circle. As we introduced little modifications to the game, like spontaneous singing (wow those singing voices were incredible!), changing direction, adding little jokes. Slowly, we noticed that like a magnet pulling all bodies to the center of the room, that the circle had filled in…and the noise of chairs scooting in was audible and now we had a CROWD!


The exercises progressed and the sounds of laughter and giggles rose throughout the dining hall. Those stern faces who swore they would not participate were now smiling. High fives were given. People started talking to each other who normally didn’t interact with each other. Stories were created, even a little performance was held by the residents. 


By the end of the event, when we looked around the room, this collection of Olders looked and acted visibly younger. It was like witnessing a real life “awakenings” movie happen before our eyes. The result was FUN, JOY and CONNECTION between everyone in the room, intergenerational and intragenerational. 


This was another clear case of aging as a team sport…or even ensemble sport. 


What we confirmed is that improv comedy possesses a unique ability to rejuvenate individuals, especially the Olders. The spontaneous nature of improv liberated our participants from self-consciousness and encouraged a playful mindset and mental agility. 


At VivaValet, our values are reliability, collaboration, inclusivity, family and FUN. We loved leaning into the laughter-filled realm of improv with our Olders. With improv as a tool, age becomes inconsequential, breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of camaraderie. The shared experience of creating humor on the spot taps into the joy of discovery and adaptability, traits often associated with youth. It not only stimulates cognitive functions but also injects a sense of vitality. It clearly brought a feeling of “young at heart” to our Olders and revealed that a vibrant, youthful spirit can persist regardless of age.


Now about PLAY. What was truly obvious from this event is that no one is “learning” to play. It’s not about acquiring new skills; it's a process of remembering the innate joy and creativity within each of us. Working in a TEAM like we did with our Olders, we reconnected them to their playful essence, their timeless reservoir of imagination and spontaneity. For our Olders to play with us was reviving or rediscovering a fundamental human instinct. We are wired for play, for fun and connection – yet again another reason why AGING IS A TEAM SPORT

What are you doing in your teams to foster play? How about your family or your community? Play is more than fun, it may even be the elixir of youth. Share your ideas with how you promote play in your teams and with your Olders. We’d love to share your genius ideas. You can comment below or send us an email at: [email protected]