When you think of LEGOs, what comes to mind?
You probably conjure up an image of small, multicolored plastic pieces that are used by children to build structures and vehicles for play. Perhaps you also remember trying to pick the tiny parts out of the carpet or stepping on an errant brick in the middle of the night, causing much more pain than one would expect. LEGOs have become an integral part of childhood for most American children. It’s a product that crosses social barriers and provides a unique play experience for kids of all ages.
We say “all ages” because the LEGO company has been embracing a new market, called “AFOLs” — adult fans of LEGOs. If you were to do a quick internet search, you would find a large and growing community of adults that are passionate about LEGOs; they dream up and construct magnificent and complex models, all built of LEGO bricks. Seeing the dedication of this community, and the potential for revenue, LEGO has been creating and marketing very advanced building kits, sometimes branded with pop culture properties, that appeal specifically to adults. Recent products have included TRON, The Beatles, the original Ghostbusters, architectural marvels from around the world and more. It truly is a golden age for the little LEGO brick.
However, the idea of “adult fans” isn’t just limited to younger adults. Increasingly, we’re seeing older adults that show a passion for LEGOs. From a purely objective standpoint, LEGO is a fantastic way for adults to keep working their fine motor skills, utilize spatial reasoning and engage in a creative exercise for the mind. Around the world, people are beginning to realize that spending a little time playing with LEGOs can be great for any age.
Lori Burdoo used to curate a Facebook Page called “Good Gifts for Senior Citizens.” On her Page, someone suggested LEGOs. This inspired her to look at the product from a whole new angle. She was especially interested in how LEGOs could benefit people challenged with memory loss. She notes that nearly anyone can use LEGOs, as the bricks come in multiple sizes. Even those with arthritis or other motor impairments can manipulate the larger bricks. Then, Lori discovered some of the more adult-focused sets LEGO had created in recent years, such as the Birds set, the more finely detailed LEGO Architecture series and the LEGO Ideas collection.
LEGO Ideas started in 2008 as a way for users to submit their own LEGO designs to the company in an effort to get LEGO to sell their creation officially. The platform works much a like a petition page, with people able to signify their support for specific builds. If a user-submitted build reaches 10,000 supporters, LEGO will officially review the product for creation. Currently, 23 entries have been turned into official LEGO products. Sadly, however, one product did not generate enough support — “Senior Builds.”
Senior Builds posited the ability of LEGO to have a creative impact on an older audience. It cites the brain stimulation that others have discovered, along with the ability to hone manual dexterity. To be fair, the project was not well-fleshed out, but the germ of an idea is there. Could LEGO design a set to be specifically marketed to older adults, challenging them appropriately? It does seem like a very interesting idea!
At Varsity, we live the idea of “fresh perspective.” As a creative director, I value the lessons that can be learned from creative play, no matter the age. My desk is home to many toys from my favorite pop culture properties. I know that I will continue to enjoy creative experiences for the rest of my life, so I can only imagine that the current generation of community residents feels the same way.
LEGO: It could just be the next big thing in senior living activities!