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Keep your aging parent active and happy by encouraging bowling

Tom Winkel President, Board of Directors South Eastern Michigan Bowling Centers Associations (SEMBCA)

Bowling can be a whole-family sport with benefits for young kids and teenagers as well. For seniors particularly, bowling is good for their physical as well as their mental health. Encourage your aging parents to seek out a bowling league, or even just go with you and your family to the bowling alley for some quality family time. Here is some advice on how bowling can help your parents stay happy and active in their old age. 


Do have family outings at your favorite bowling center

Everyone from little kids to grandma and grandpa can bowl. Bowling is the only sport where everything required for participation – balls, pins and shoes -- – is available onsite and year-round, so just bring your enthusiasm. Having a family outing at a bowling alley is a great way to spend some quality family time with your whole family. 

Do enroll Mom and Dad in a senior’s league

Getting your parents signed up in a senior’s league will help them get the regular exercise and socialization that bowling on a regular basis with their peers can provide. Bowling is a great way for them to make new friends and stay active. 

Do invite an expert

Ask the manager of your local bowling center to come talk to senior groups that Mom and Dad might belong to – church, or other organizations, even retirement facilities.

Bowling is a low impact sport and can be played even by people with walkers or wheelchairs.

Do invite a physical therapist

Ask a physical therapist who specializes in geriatric patients to explain the medical benefits of bowling for all seniors.

Three games of bowling are equivalent to walking almost a mile, but a whole lot more of the body is engaged than just the muscles that normally are exercised in a walk.  


Do not focus on the score

While competition is a healthy thing, it’s even healthier to get the ball rolling down the lane. Nobody expects a 300 game when you’re 80 – even though there have been a lot of them. The joy of getting just one turkey, or even one strike for that matter, can help boost your parent’s self-esteem and bring them some much needed fun. 

Do not worry about bowling shirts

Let Mom and Dad wear whatever is comfortable. If they’re in a league, then shirts might be provided. However, if they want to wear a nice bowling shirt, it can be a great way for a whole group of seniors to feel part of a group. 

Do not begrudge them the time you may have to spend

Enjoy the time getting them to and from the bowling center – even sitting through the games – because it is quality time you spend with your parents. Bowling may bring back memories of first dates, high scores and spectacular gutter balls.

Do not overdo it

As with anything in life, moderation is a good thing. Remind those “older kids” of yours not to stress out if they have a bad day and roll nothing but gutter balls. Also, remind them not to undo the good that bowling does for them by over-indulging at the snack counter.

Jumping cartoon

Bowling is a positive solution to keeping your mom and dad healthy, active and involved. It can include the whole family or just them and their friends. As Martha Stewart would say, bowling is a good thing.

More expert advice about Caring for Aging Parents

Photo Credits: Group portrait of men with bowling balls by Blend Images via BigStock; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Tom WinkelPresident, Board of Directors

Tom Winkel has been working in the bowling center industry since 1976 and is vice president of Woodland Lanes in Livonia, Mich., a family-owned and operated business. Winkel has a bachelor degree in business administration from Wayne State Unive...

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