Favorite elderly activities include crafts, exercise, hobbies, relaxation, games, mental exercises, large print activities, party ideas...! But is it only just to pass the time and have fun? Or is there more to it?
Studies have shown that the stimulation activities can provide is crucial for our physical, mental and emotional health, plus our memories. The activities on our pages aim to work with these. And we have so many, we've created some specialty pages too....
Why hunt around our web site for crafts. Besides lots of never-seen-before new crafts, many projects from our web site are included. Over 120 projects. PLUS, a FREE booklet of template and patterns for your activities. Two books for one!
See Easy Crafts and Gifts -- and get a sneak peek!
Conversation Strengthens Memory -- In a University of Michigan study, psychologist Oscar Ybarra at the U-Michigan Institute for Social Research tested a large group of people up to 96 years old. He found that just 10 minutes of conversation with a friend worked just as well as elderly activities involving brain games, like crossword puzzles to strengthen the memory.
"In our study, socializing was just as effective as more
traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual
performance," he said. So elderly should have
plenty of time to socialize. It not only will help with memory, but also depression and loneliness.
Recording Your Memoirs -- My own grown kids love that their grandfather digitally recorded his memoirs, and we made copies for everyone. They're intrigued by his stories and perspectives through the wars, Depression, post-war boom years, launching a career, raising a family (with me being one of the kids) back in the "olden days"! Especially, my son remarks, back when adolescent young men were still "gentlemen." See our page on Senior Activity Ideas for more details.
Puddle Painting -- One of the easiest kinds! You need good watercolor paper and watercolor paints, with a few brushes, water, etc. First just paint a puddle, with plain water, of a general flower (or bird, etc.) shape onto the paper.
Then load a brush with bright paint and dab it onto the edge of the water puddle. Dab another color onto another edge, and water the colors spread. You can also lightly brush a bit of paint into the middle of the shape. Later you can paint on a stem and simple leaf. Or add them on with markers or colored pencils.
Also just make random designs the same way all over the paper. Let it dry. Then cut them into strips and laminate as book marks. If you do a painting on a paper sized 8x10 or larger, you could also laminate them and use them as place mats.
If you want to try decorating a frame for your art, see our page on picture frame crafts.
Play Chimes - the Easy Way -- We had a guest writer share tips and expertise about a very simple way to create music, without having to read music, practice, or have talent. Easy enough for kids, and families! One of our activity consultants has played chimes herself and really recommends it! It's simple and satisfying activity; either alone or with a group. Music can be an uplifting and social experience. See what he says at easy elderly music with chimes.
Hobbies -- Hobbies are not just a way to pass the time, but offer something to get up and get excited about, look forward to. Depression can involve having no "goals" or the blahs from not having anything to anticipate. And it’s never too late to begin new elderly activities. Especially if a previous hobby is no longer do-able -- then people become a little more open minded about trying new elderly activities to challenge and entertain themselves.
We have an entire page
to help, on Finding A Hobby.
Help elderly loved ones choose an activity that may be somewhat related
to their previous hobby, yet different enough to learn something new.
Modifying Hobbies -- If seniors are no longer able to do their favorite hobby in the usual way, find alternative ways to do it or to share it. Cooking for instance. New elderly activities could include helping them create a family recipe book, put it on computer, and create a small booklet for family and friends.
I wished that our family would have organized some of my mom’s wonderful recipes in booklet form. This actually can be a fun activity for elderly to do. Or watch the Food Network or Travel Channel with them on TV.
Ask them to discuss the recipes and what they think, and how they might enhance them. Or if they had ever cooked a similar recipe and what they did. Look over new cookbooks from the library with them, and then have them help you in small ways to prepare a new dish. And of course eat it! Read about foods from other countries, and their customs (some of them are pretty wild, to us!)
You can do the same type of elderly activities with any hobby, such as gardening, home decorating, woodworking, travel, photography, or pets.
Edible Windowsill Garden -- Even for those who weren’t into gardening, windowsill gardens are fun elderly activities to do as a family or individually. Very popular gardens are those you can eat – a tangible goal!
Edible window gardens are usually herbs. The easiest to grow are dill, basil, cilantro, lavender (which you can also use to make a lavender pillow), parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, and chives. Use a potting mix rather than soil, which can carry disease. A sunny windowsill is best.
Many types of pots and containers can be used, including simple plastic trays, but they should be at least 6 inches deep. Get fertilizer specifically for edible plants! Use it about once per month. You don’t need to water herbs very often; just keep the soil barely moist so roots don’t get soggy. Cut and use them often.
As with other plants, they become fuller as they are clipped. You can also grow strawberries, tomatoes and sunflowers on the window sill. But see your garden center for specific instructions. There are also windowsill herb and edible plant kits available, and these make really easy elderly activities.
Gone Fishing Party – We have lots more elderly activities – with parties! And many can be indoors or out, any time of year. Including a fishing-themed extravaganza. So don’t let any weather stop you! Get plenty of details on our party theme ideas page.
Chocolate Covered “Worms” – Foody projects provide plenty more elderly activities, especially easy ones with chocolate. Make chocolate worms, use edible flowers on cupcakes, make mouse crafts with food, or luscious gourmet s’mores. We have all kinds of ideas on our easy food activities page.
Gentle Hand Massage -- A hand massage using gentle reflexology that stimulates the whole system is a little gift that you can give to the elderly you care for. And it is really easy to do; experience not necessary. It's given with a favorite lotion (men and women alike), or is perfect to also do with a manicure or salon activity. See our handy hand reflexology chart. Dad loved hand massage.
Make An Easy Angel -- Angels are for any time of year. Christmas, Easter, birthdays, christenings, memorials, etc. Or perhaps you have a very special "angel" in your family or group? We show a very simple feather angel here (which can be made with any color of craft feathers, to fit the occasion).
Grow an Amaryllis -- An amaryllis bulb kit is very inexpensive, about $5.99. Find kits in large discount stores and pharmacies during the winter holidays, but even during summer. Amaryllis plants make fabulous elderly activities.
They are tall, stately flowers with spectacular large blooms, several to a stalk, in bright colors. And grow fast! The kit comes with a bulb in soil, it soon sprouts, and then you can literally wake up every morning and see the difference; sometimes a half an inch a day. It’s a fantastic project to watch, and lasts for about 6 weeks.
Make Art To Music -- Music can be very soothing, and so can doing art. So combine the two! Get out some paper (large sized is great), some colored chalk pastels, water colors, even crayons. Put on some calming music (it can still be a little peppy if you'd like) and have your group just do whatever they feel.
Tell them they can't go wrong - it's about doing art with feeling, rather than trying to create a masterpiece. The music will create the feeling. Everyone one in our class love it, even those not big on art.
Making Easy Planters -- When you grow gardens, consider another fun project - creative planter ideas by making and/or finding unusual planters. Use them as unique gifts and give-aways, show off heirloom and vintage items, plus see how to give them a hand crafted touch. Like an old boot from a family member as a planter.
Make A Simple Centerpiece -- So many elderly activities can involve parties, get-togethers, public events, clubs, and the like, so making a nice centerpiece can be done year. Great for give-aways, raffles, silent auctions, etc. Helping to make centerpieces can be a very fulfilling project. And they make excellent gifts. See our Make Fun and Affordable Centerpieces page, using many items you already have around.
Using templates and patterns -- For your arts and crafts and
various elderly activities. I have drawn several templates and patterns
for you, all copyright-free.
Some simple, some fancier. But you can always modify them or use just parts of the pattern. Use them to trace, to transfer onto paper or boards for painting, for posters and flyers, mobiles, greeting cards, coloring pages, for collage and cut-out projects. And much more. Go to Free Leaf Template and Pattern Ideas. And also Flower Templates.
Expanding Horizons -- Many elderly still love to learn. Learning-oriented elderly activities exercise the brain and keep brain activity healthy. Encourage seniors to watch worthwhile educational programs on TV and programs associated with their hobbies.
There are also lots of documentary
films you can rent or stream to your TV. I narrate a huge variety of
these to Dad; something several times a week. He particular loves
anything to do with science, inventions and travel.
Encourage seniors to try watching and learning new things. (I joke with Dad that we could both have a Ph.d. in sciences by now from all the films we watch). We also surf the internet with a large-screen TV as the monitor. Seniors are becoming more and more computer savvy. As centenarian Maurice Eisman of Maryland said, “If I could leave any message, never stop learning. Period. That's it.”
Current Events -- Discuss current events on TV and in the newspaper, but keep it light and on a positive note as much as possible (some seniors can be prone to depression, so heavy current events may not be appropriate).
Keeping up what’s going on in the world helps seniors stay mentally involved. You can get other related elderly activities involved too. Ask for their opinions, and how an issue differed x-amount of years ago.
father is unable to read from vision loss, and severe hearing loss
prevents him from listening to the news himself. So I selectively read the newspaper to him. He
gets tired of hearing about war and scandals, and we mostly skip those. I
also narrate the TV news to him, so he gets most of the current events
too. But he still really enjoys it when I read to him.
When I read about something, I make sure to ask him if he remembers anything that had been on the TV news about the topic – very good memory exercise (also see our page on meaningful dementia activities). It leads to very lively discussions and opinions. These activities are some of the highlights of his week.
Easy Yoga -- Exercise is always good for the mind and memory, and are important elderly activities. One of Dad's very favorites is easy yoga, done in his chair, keeping all his joints in good condition. He had no arthritis at all, even in his 90s. He chalked this up to exercise, especially joint movements of yoga. Even seniors who are not limber report that gentle yoga does a world of good for well-being, joints, and even mobility.
I also exercised along with Dad, doing my routines alongside him. For some seniors, this may involve modifications. Learn more and get few tips, at yoga for seniors.
Have A Tropical Luau -- Any time of year. Very fun during dreary weather. Many elderly folks have either traveled or lived in warm
places, including the Polynesian Islands and can share ideas. This one is sure to lift the spirits. You can make it simple
or do an extravaganza, even a fund raiser, inviting the public. Perhaps
with a raffle and/or silent auction following the theme. Get more ideas
at Perfect Party Theme Ideas.
Chocolate Strawberries -- Making and decorating these are fun and easy elderly activities, and easy to modify if some need help. We have lots of ways to decorate them. Learn to make colored kinds too, as well as white. See ideas for different seasons and holidays at make chocolate covered strawberries.
Windowsill Flower Gardens
-- There are windowsill flower garden kits available and they provide
more elderly activities. But you can also create a quick garden from
flower cuttings as well. With a sharp knife, takes cuttings from the
garden of a friend or family member, or community garden. These should
have about a 4 inch stem. Remove the bottom leaves of course, then place
in a glass jar of water.
Canning jars are great, but so are smaller, decorative glass vases. Line them across the windowsill and watch them grow roots. Dump the water every week and replace with fresh water. These cuttings will last for many weeks.
If you still have them in the spring, plant them outdoors. If you want something practically indestructible, take cuttings from a philodendron plant. I had the same cuttings in water for, yes, two to four years! I then planted them, and 15 years later they’re still growing strong.
My father moved here back to Minnesota after years in Arizona, so he likes cactus.
You can get several kinds and line them across the windowsill in their
pots. Or take them out of their pots, and transplant them all into a
long plastic container.
Use gravel and sand in the mix as well. Try these projects as group. Seniors who enjoyed gardening in the past may like to have a way to garden again. Also a nice option for finding a hobby.
-- For more elderly activities with flowers and plants try this. (Also in the fresh air outdoors). Go out out and pick fresh
flowers from a field trip, a community garden or windowsill garden.
Remove wilted petals and leaves. Try not to let flower parts
overlap. Leaves should lay flat.
The Old-Fashioned Way -- Choose a heavy book and line the inside pages with 2 or 3 sheets of paper to protect the book. (Paper towels can turn the whole thing turned to mush).
Carefully lay the flowers on the paper, and cover with another 2 sheets. After closing the book, I stack another couple of books on top. Or you can also place the book in your microwave and “cook” it for 30 seconds. You’ll have to repeat it a few times, checking to see if the flowers are almost dried. Then I let the book sit for at least another 2 weeks before opening.
The Easy Way -- You can get a microwave flower press for about $30 to $50 depending on size. Just microwave for 15 to 25 seconds!
Flowers go from fluffy and thick to very thin, dry and flat; and keep some color too. Very pretty and I think well worth the
investment, for this type of project.
Dried flowers can be used in other elderly activities later on, during various seasons.
Pressed Flower Projects – Pressed flowers can then be used
as gifts, including framing, maybe with a favorite
saying, as potpourri, for decoupaging onto boxes, or pretty glass containers
(great for candle holders), or right onto the outside of a pillar candle (attach them only about half way up).
My son knows many girls who save their flowers from special occasions, from dances, graduation, weddings, etc. They'd LOVE to have a grandparent press them to keep as a memento, or to use another craft.
Grow A Bonsai -- Bonsai growing is really popular, (and any kind of gardening makes wonderful elderly activities). You can find kits for amateurs in many places, even home improvement stores. At garden centers you may be able to get a staff member to come out and give a short presentation, then get a bonsai group started. They may do it for free as a service to seniors.
Or get instructions online. Taking a group to a gardening show,
nursery, or bonsai association, to see their displays also makes a nice
Growing a bonsai does take some attention, but those who had been gardeners in the past will enjoy it. There may even be someone in your group who has done it before. Giving a bonsai kit also makes a great gift.
Photograph Activities -- Having fun with photos can easily evolve into many more elderly activities. Go over old photos and talk about your elderly loved one’s past or your growing up. Encourage them to share. Have them help you get those photos in albums with them, if they’re not already. You can make it into a lively ongoing scrapbooking project to do together or in a group.
A friend had her parents help sort out all the photos of her kids (of course they chatted about memories while sorting). She then got small photo albums for each child, and her parents helped assemble and put them in, writing special little notes on each page. Now her kids have a truly precious gift from their grandparents with very personal memories that they wrote.
Make your own personalized frame to go with a special photo, and give it
as a gift. See ideas on picture frame crafts.
Make Gourmet S'mores -- Food is among our favorite elderly activities. There is something about s'mores that brings back fun memories of
bonfires and fireplaces, activities with family and grandkids, and the
good 'ole days. But we've taken them a step further - the gourmet style. Why
settle for "same old" when you can create something nostalgic yet
spectacular. My son is who actually got me started with all this. See favorites at How To Make Smores - The Gourmet Way.
Baby Visits -- Perhaps you can arrange to have a relative or friend visit regularly with their little one. Elderly people love to interact with babies (Dad just lights up when he holds his great-grandchildren). Then ask your loved one how things were done when they were raising their babies, and what types of conveniences and inventions were popular at the time. And what things we take for granted now that were not even invented yet. If you are having an elderly family member or friend record their memoirs, these types of conversations can also be included.
Pet Visits -- Many elderly activities used revolve around pets, when someone was able to still have one. Arranging to have small, friendly pets visit is also a plus, especially for those who had pets and miss them. Studies have shown that just a half an hour of pet visiting per week had a big effect on lessening feelings of loneliness. Encourage the elderly to talk about the pets they had. It may also be possible for seniors to accompany the pet on a walk on the grounds or yard, even in a wheelchair.
Reading Aloud -- Reading can involve several more elderly activities, and reading aloud can be very special. Some seniors form reading groups and take turns reading aloud to the group. Others have regular times when they read to children. It's especially wonderful for those who can't see well enough to read on their own anymore, like Dad, to have someone read aloud to them.
If seniors are really interested in a particular topic, get a book from the library on the topic, especially with pictures. If you're reading to them, you can show and discuss the pictures. Encourage them to reminisce about their lives and what this topic means to them.
Older seniors also enjoy educational books geared for kids on these topics – the photos and illustrations are often much better, and the text more interesting! Also see our page on Senior Reading Activities. I read aloud to my Dad every night, and it is one of our favorite things to do together.
Children’s Books with Grandparent Topics -- Have kids read children’s books with a grandparent topic to elderly loved ones, or have the elderly read to them, (especially to their own grandchild). These are very cozy activities that kids remember for a long time.
One of my favorite books is called “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney -- about an elderly woman who sowed lupine flowers all over the hillsides by her town, and created lasting beauty for generations to come. Another is “How Does It Feel To Be Old?” by Norma Farber -- about a grandmother explaining aging to her grandchild. Also, “When I was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant – about a grandfather who works in the coal mines. A fourth selection is “The Old Woman Who Named Things” by Cynthia Rylant – and not just her pets and car. There are many more, and a librarian or staff in the children’s section of a bookstore can help.
Kite Flying -- Great reason to go outdoors! (See this link for more outdoor activities for the elderly).
And it’s fun for both men and women; plus, invite kids. Get inexpensive kites at a discount store or even a dollar store. Making and decorating easy kites from a kit are
fun elderly activities and can be done in a group too. Kids love to
get involved in this one!
You may want to limit the length of the kite string so it’s more manageable. Go outside to an area where there are not too many trees, and take turns flying the kites.
Wheelchair participants can also attach the kites to their chairs. Bring along lemonade and a snack, or even a full picnic lunch. If you’re inviting kids, they can help make it. Many of your members will have fun stories to tell about flying kites when they were young. So kites and conversation are elderly activities that are good for the memory.
A Gift Basket -- There's nothing more satisfying than doing something
for someone else. Doing gift baskets provides many more elderly
activities. They're also an easy way for elderly to contribute to a
meaningful project, whether for a fund raiser, raffle, silent auction,
someone who is sick (including children), a celebration, or special
occasion. And try a
theme - we have loads of ideas about that at Easy Make A Gift Basket Ideas.
Older seniors may have
a special something to add to the basket (perhaps a piece from a
collection or a vintage item) to make it especially personal. Or they
may still knit, do needlework, woodwork, art, etc. Their skills and
caring to make a difference are important!
Kindle Activities Book
A comprehensive book with loads of senior activities. (They can also be easily be read on your PC and other mobile devices. You don't need an actual Kindle.) This book has lots of new ideas, as well as neatly organized activities from our web site - so you don't have to search all over. It's sectioned into handy categories, such as General Activities, Activities for Men, Fun Food Activities, Holiday Activities, Outdoor Activities, Dementia Activities, and much more! Get a sneak peek on our Kindle page at:
201 Fun! Senior Activities
Easy Food Activities - Always a favorite!
Crafts For The Elderly - Easy to modify too.
The Importance of Elderly Activities -- See the studies about the brain and why activities really do help!
More Elderly Activities, With Kids - A nice variety, whether visiting or at home.
Share Your Elderly Activities - Forum -- Read what our visitors have contributed. Lots of other fun ideas!
Activities For Elderly with Vision Loss - (and Dad also has hearing loss)
Senior Activities - By The Month -- A Master Page with lots more ideas, for each of the 12 months. Plus pages for General activities for each season.