10 Stimulating Activities for the Elderly
Feeling like the senior in your life has slowly slumped into a daily rut? It’s certainly common for elderly adults to develop a routine that eventually dulls their spirit and negatively impacts their physical and mental health. But there’s good news: You can introduce a whole host of stimulating activities to help improve your aging loved one’s quality of life.
There’s a myriad of ideas that cater to a range of physical abilities and mental capacities, so you can engage your elderly loved one in as many ways as possible. Doing so has the potential to benefit the senior in your life by helping them:
Minimize agitation and depression
Maintain motor skills
Establish a sense of ownership and independence
Gain a feeling of accomplishment
Promote emotional connection and self-expression
Check out this list of 10 stimulating activities, and leverage them as you see fit to help your aging loved one become more engaged in their own life.
Let their artistic spirit flow with any assortment of crafting options. Invite them to paint with watercolors or acrylics, draw and sketch (with anything from pencils or markers to chalk or crayons), knit basic or more complex patterns, create jewelry, make pottery or take part in any crafting activity that allows them to express their artistic side.
Many older adults appreciate the time and freedom to tap into newfound creativity. This is also a great way to connect with others in a group setting. Your loved one might even have the desire to wear, gift or sell their artistic creations.
For an elderly loved one who enjoys the outdoors, gardening is an ideal option. Even if they don’t have the physical strength and agility to do more advanced gardening activities, there’s always basic tasks like raking, seed placement and watering.
You can tend to anything from flowers and shrubs to herbs, fruits and vegetables. This activity arouses the senses and gives the elderly senior in your life a chance to soak in some critical Vitamin D. For more physically able seniors, there’s the added benefit of exercise inherent in tasks such as digging, weeding and potting. Eventually, the fruits of their labor will be in full bloom for additional enjoyment.
3. Walking & Exercising
Help your elderly loved one get those endorphins flowing with some form of physical activity. Take walks together around their community, encourage them to join an exercise group or sign them up for swimming.
Consider opportunities for organized exercise classes like yoga, senior aerobics or other heart-pumping and strength-building options. If it’s difficult for them to leave their home, consider setting up exercise videos for them to engage in via television or computer.
4. Higher Learning
Is your loved one the academic type? Give them an opportunity to participate in ongoing lectures or continuing education classes. This is a superb way to maintain mental alertness and engagement.
Some senior living communities and local community centers provide these types of learning opportunities. Check out the offerings at nearby community colleges as well. There are lots of options for taking advantage of academic and cultural events for seniors.
5. Reading & Writing
If the senior in your life enjoys books, magazines and other reading materials, be sure to make these options available to them regularly. This activity can be done individually, between the two of you or in a group. Would they enjoy discussing their recent reads in a book club setting? This is a fantastic way to speak their opinions and engage socially.
Maybe they like to create their own stories. If that’s the case, encourage them to do some writing of their own. Short articles, family history, poetry, autobiography, fiction, how-to’s—the sky’s the limit! Writing helps keep the mind sharp and the creativity open. It can also allow for a deepened sense of passion and purpose.
6. Cooking & Baking
Perhaps your loved one is a foodie at heart. Get them involved in opportunities for meal planning, preparation, cooking, baking and serving. This can involve simple recipes for options like cookies or pancakes, or it might include more complex menus that require greater skill and ingenuity in the kitchen. Cooking and baking alone or together has the potential to be a fun and stimulating activity with some pretty delicious outcomes!
There’s no shortage of ways to engage the senior in your life for a good cause. Participate together in a food drive, toy drive, fundraising activity or other service-minded event. Volunteering is a wonderful avenue for helping to prevent or overcome feelings of uselessness during this stage of life.
Encourage your aging loved one to use their natural abilities to help someone else in need. Maybe this means cooking for a shelter, knitting or sewing for the needy, visiting the sick or planning a fundraiser. It might be as simple as wrapping gifts. The specific task is not nearly as important as the feelings of purpose and satisfaction they derive from this kind of activity.
8. Music & Dancing
Even elderly adults with advanced dementia or cognitive impairments can benefit greatly from music-centered activities. Research shows profound positive impacts from music therapy and various forms of musical stimulation. Certain types of music can help trigger memories and support feelings of happiness.
Perhaps the senior in your life would be interested in attending a live concert, orchestra or ballet. They might even like to play a well-loved instrument or learn to engage a new one. For a loved one who likes to dance, consider signing them up for ballroom classes or other forms of group dance lessons and gatherings.
9. Pet Therapy
Animals have a special way of bonding with seniors and helping to brighten their day. If your elderly loved one is an animal lover, spending time with pets and other animals could be a highly engaging activity for them. From dogs and cats to fish and birds, there’s so much to be gained from giving the senior in your life a chance to connect with animals. Research has shown that doing so can help to increase overall physical and mental well-being.
Last—but certainly not least—there’s the option of treating your elderly loved one to some much-needed self-care. At a salon, barber or spa, they can enjoy haircuts, coloring, styling, manicures, skin treatments, massages and more. Some senior living communities offer these types of services or special events on-site. This is a prime opportunity for the senior in your life to feel pampered and cared for, as well as to engage socially and in a different type of environment.
More and more, gerontological science shows a direct link between an active, engaging lifestyle and healthy longevity. Physical activity and mental stimulation positively affect cognition for both elderly adults who are free from neurological disorders and those with conditions like depression, dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Ultimately, happy seniors living fulfilling lives can expect to live better and longer.