Elderly activities are not just for entertainment!
Or to keep busy. Or filling up the hours to avoid boredom. They are also for the healthy maintenance of the body, mind, and spirit which may seem to lag a bit from elderly issues that occur as we age.
We know that taking care of our bodies involves our physical muscles. But we also have so-called “mental muscles.” The factors of the mind. And they both need to be exercised – use it or lose it! What are our mental muscles? Reason, Imagination, and Memory are a few. Our cells renew constantly, including our brain cells. Brain activity needs to be stimulated to keep our brains healthy and memories strong. Exercising our mental muscles with fun yet challenging elderly activities will help with this. And we have lots below -- great for nursing home activities too.
See our special pages on:
Easy Food Activities
Crafts For The Elderly
Meaningful Dementia Activities
Senior Activity Ideas -- Additional activity ideas for those with more mobility or a higher ability level. But many can be modified for as easier activities.
We do have lots of crafts in many places on our web site, for many ability levels. But why hunt all over? Our crafts are all consolidated and organized, along with dozens of new never-seen-before projects for both men and women, in our e-book! Hand crafted gifts are always so much appreciated and have become quite popular. And not only very meaningful to make and receive, but also economical. (And who can’t use a little of that!) Would you like some gift ideas? You get over 120 projects, with plenty of tips on different ways to make them! Plus, bundled with a free booklet of more than 30 brand new templates. Two books for one: “Easy Crafts and Gifts – For Little Money & Lots of Fun,” -- plus -- “Bonus Templates & Patterns.”
Click here to get more information!
Do activities really help?
A recent study conducted by scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel discussed how important elderly activities are. And a long-held notion about the brain was nixed – that we were born with a certain amount of nerve cells in the brain, that they deteriorate and die, and they can’t be replaced. This has now apparently been disproved. The brain can indeed continue to renew itself, especially the hippocampus area that affects memory. This is helped with mental activity and memory exercise. The full process of how the brain does this is not entirely understood yet.
Besides activities strictly for fun and entertainment such as hobbies and crafts, there are three other important types of elderly activities to emphasize. All three will both strengthen and reduce stress brought on by aging. Stress isn’t just about feelings; it can physically harm the brain and memory, especially with an overproduction of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
1) Exercise and physical activity See our page on Fun Exercises For The Elderly.
2) Healthy nutrition
3) Memory exercise in elderly activities.
This Elderly Activities page is especially for those who are more limited; many are great nursing home activities too. Also see our Senior Activity Ideas for more ideas of interest to active seniors (including those in wheelchairs).
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 make sure the elderly in your life have plenty of time to socialize. It not only will help with memory, but also elderly issues of depression and loneliness as well.
Recording Your Memoirs -- My own grown kids love that their grandfather recorded his memoirs, and we put them on a CD 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.
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 all sorts of elderly activities involved. Ask for their opinions, and how an issue differed x-amount of years ago. My father is unable to read from vision loss. So on Tuesday and Friday evenings I selectively read the newspaper to him. I already know he gets tired of hearing about war and political scandals, so we mostly skip those. He’s able to watch the news with his infrared earphones on, so he gets most of the evening news. But he still enjoys it when I read to him. When I read about something, I make sure to ask him if they said anything on the news about this. It usually leads to very lively discussion and opinions about all sorts of other issues as well. When I watch the news on TV with him, we turn off the sound during the ads and talk about what was just said. These elderly activites are some of the highlights of his week.
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. Photography to painting; or painting to photography, for instance. Or photography to plant identification, or bird watching, or learning about other places. Or woodworking to painting on wood.
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. 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 – there is a tangible goal! Edible window gardens usually consist of 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. Also 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 I suggest you see your garden center for specific instructions. There are also windowsill herb and edible plant kits available, and these make really easy elderly activities.
Grow an Amaryllis -- An amaryllis bulb kit is very inexpensive, about $5.99. Although these kits are typically found in large discount stores like Target during the winter holidays, I’ve also found them in Walgreen's during the summer. Amaryllis plants make fabulous elderly activities. Are you familiar with the amaryllis? They are tall and stately flowers with spectacular large blooms, several to a stalk. Colors are typically brilliant red, pink and white. And do they ever 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. They can grow sometimes a half an inch a day. It’s a fantastic project to watch, and lasts for about 6 weeks. Follow the instructions to let it go dormant, then coax it to bloom again. In fact, if you handle the bulb correctly, it can last for years.
Windowsill Flower Gardens -- There are many windowsill flower garden kits available and they provide ongoing 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 as group elderly activities.
Making Easy Planters -- And when you grow those gardens, consider another fun and easy project -- creative planter ideas. Making and/or finding unusual planters is an easy activity for all ages and abilities. Use them as unique gifts and give-aways, show off heirloom and vintage items, plus see our easy craft ideas of how to give them a hand crafted touch.
Pressed Flowers -- Pick fresh flowers from a field trip, a community garden or windowsill garden. Remove any wilted petals and leaves. Try not to let flower parts overlap. Leaves should lay flat. Choose a heavy book and line the inside pages with 2 or 3 sheets of paper to protect the book. (I tried paper towels once and 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 two weeks before opening. Dried flowers make all kinds of elderly activities later.
Pressed Flower Projects -- Pressed flowers can then be used for many projects to use as gifts, including framing with your signature and maybe a favorite saying, potpourri, decoupaging onto boxes, or pretty glass containers (great for candle holders). My son pointed out to me that he 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 momento, or to incorporate into another craft. Have your group come up with suggestions for how to use pressed flowers in other elderly activities.
Photographs -- 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. Scrapbooking and working with photos are very popular elderly activities now.
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. (And lots more to come, so keep posted). Some are simpler, 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. Depending on ability level, they can also be used for faux quilts by tracing the shapes onto fabric, then gluing onto a fabric background. For lots more ideas for these patterns, start by looking at this page, which will then link you to more pattern and template pages: Free Leaf Template and Pattern Ideas. And also Flower Templates.
Baby Visits – See if you can arrange to have a relative or friend visit regularly with their little one. Elderly love to interact with babies. Then ask 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 them record their memoirs, these types of conversations can also be included.
Pet Visits -- 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.
Expanding Horizons -- Many elderly still love to learn. And they should – it exercises their brains and keeps brain activity healthy. Encourage them to watch worthwhile educational programs on the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, National Geographic; and programs associated with their hobbies on Home and Garden TV, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Food Network, etc. Encourage them to try watching and learning new things. They may also be interested in learning to surf the internet. 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.”
Reading Aloud -- Reading aloud projects are very special elderly activities. If seniors are really interested in a particular topic, get a book from the library on the topic, especially with pictures. You can even read to them, and 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 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 elderly activities 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 elderly 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, and it’s a great senior activity for both men and women, and to invite kids to as well. You can buy inexpensive kites at a discount store or can even sometimes find them in a dollar store. Making and decorating easy kites from a kit are fun elderly activities and can be done in a group too. And 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 the participants will have fun stories to tell about flying kites when they were young. So kites and conversation provide elderly activities that are good for the memory too.
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; prior experience is not necessary. It's given with a favorite lotion (men and women alike), or is perfect to also do in conjunction with a manicure or salon type activity. See the handy hand reflexology chart we provide on this page to learn more about how reflex points work.
Again, be sure to see our special pages on:
Easy Food Activities
Crafts For The Elderly
If you need a comprehensive book with loads of activities, then we have the perfect Kindle book for you! (Kindle books can also be easily be read on your PC without an actual Kindle device.) This book contains 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, more Elderly Activities, Activities for Men, Fun Food Activities, Holiday Activities, Outdoor Activities, Dementia Activities, and much more! Just go to our Kindle page at: 201 Fun! Senior Activities.
Also check out these web sites:
Funny Retirement Poems
This book is in easy-read PDF format. Besides almost all of the crafts from our web site (nice and organized and in one place), you'll get dozens of absolutely new projects! You’ll never see two books bundled like this anywhere else. Not to be missed! Just click here for info.
-- Share these with your friends and family. You could even try to write your own, and make others laugh.
Keeper Gifts Online
–- A great resource for age, health, and lifestyle-appropriate gifts for boomers and seniors.
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