Senior citizens enjoy a wide variety of activities just as much as any other age group and it is extremely important to provide beneficial activities for the elderly. The ability of the senior to participate in activities that engage their mind and body as best they can is vital to their overall physical and mental health. But it is also important for the activity to be one that the senior enjoys, as well as being stimulating…without being frustrating. To do this, the caregiver will want to consider a few things about the senior citizen, in order to plan the most meaningful activities.
Think About the Physical Ability of the Senior When Planning Activities
Is your senior still able to be physically active? Or do they require the use of a wheelchair or walker to get around? If that is the case, it does not mean that you cannot provide physical activities that would be enjoyable for the senior citizen. But you will need to tailor your activity to something that they are capable of doing, yet still fun.
For example, for a wheelchair-bound elderly person, activities can center on things like throwing and catching a ball or Frisbee. If indoors, consider using foam pieces and a kid’s indoor basketball hoop. Other ways that a person with limited mobility can still get physical exercise, is to put music on and have “aerobics” where the senior lifts their arms or legs if possible, making circles, kicking, air-punching etc. Make it light-hearted, make it a game, and you and your senior will both benefit from the fun of an activity like this.
What if your elderly person, on the other hand, is still mobile? There are many enjoyable activities that senior citizens can do if they are able to walk well. The first is, frankly, to walk. Depending on where the senior lives, walking can be one of the most beneficial and healthy activities that anyone of any age can do. Take a walk with your senior citizen, talk to them along the way, and enjoy the sites and the conversation.
Activities like golf are another excellent activity that can be very beneficial to a mobile elderly person. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal reports that some assisted living centers are finding that seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease, who played golf previously, find the activity familiar and calming, in a way that new activities may not be.
Plan Activities for the Senior to Challenge but not Frustrate the Mind
If you are caring for a person who has dementia, Alzheimer’s, or has other cognitive issues, again structure activities that the person can easily do, will find enjoyable, and not frustrating.
Often, these types of activities may consist of simple card games or board games. Consider puzzles, art projects, and using things like flash cards or pictures to stimulate conversation. Music is another activity that senior citizens truly love, and can be approached in a variety of ways. Singing “old” songs, classic children’s’ or campfire songs, and even hymns can be a positive, and popular experience for both an individual, as well as a group of seniors.
What if the elderly person in your life is mentally sharp? How do you help challenge his/her mind? For folks like this, there are a variety of things you can consider doing with them.
One that I think many seniors are starting to embrace is technology. What most of us take for granted, senior citizens find fascinating, and many are eager to learn all about “this internet thing”. Teach the senior in your life the basics of how to use a computer, how to surf the internet, and how to send an email. What a great way for an elderly person to stay in touch with family and friends. One elderly person I know, who is 92 years old, just set up a Facebook account!
Show your senior how to use a digital camera: while this is nothing new for us, for many senior citizens it is an interesting and fun activity. Show them a slide show of pictures that you take together. Or start a scrapbook with the pictures, which is another enjoyable activity to share.
And consider games like Scrabble, Monopoly, chess and checkers as ways for an elderly person to exercise his/her mind, while participating in a fun activity. If you care for a group of seniors, you may also find that games like this also appeal to the aging person’s need for community and conversation.
Find Out What Kinds of Activities the Senior Loved to Do When Young
One thing that I think many who care for the elderly often overlook, is the fact that each person is an individual, with their own likes, dislikes, and prior life experiences. And as individuals, they have the right to have these experiences considered when planning activities for them.
For example, a person who spent years as a baker still enjoys spending time in the kitchen: that interest doesn’t go away, just because the person is in a wheelchair or has Alzheimer’s. As noted earlier, the Wall Street Journal pointed out recently that it is those things that an Alzheimer’s patient has done previously in their life, that may be enjoyed by them the most….and may actually be a way to calm and soothe the person precisely because it is familiar to them. And this would certainly hold true really for any aging person, no matter their physical or mental situation.
So talk to your senior citizen, or their family, and find out what they loved to do when younger, because chances are they will still love it today. Whether it is gardening, golfing, cooking, knitting, or sports, find a way to engage your elderly person in that activity today. It will end up becoming a meaningful and enjoyable activity for both the senior citizen and for you.