A myriad of specific elderly nutrition problems tend to increase as we age — and proper nutrition is often more difficult to get. Nutrition (or lack of it) in our older loved ones is often hidden
And it may be difficult to discover exactly what it going on.

When Dad first moved from Arizona into his assisted living facility back here, he was 93. One of the first things I noticed was his lack of appetite. It was not just from the stress of moving, but was a long-term issue. He ate like a bird, ate very little protein, but lots of salt and sugar. Lots of snacks.This was not like him. He had always been astute with his nutrition.

So I immediately had to make sure plenty of healthy snack food (including with protein) was always on hand, plus be sure that he got at least one good protein meal a day. (See our page on delicious elderly nutrition snacks).

Certainly, taking vitamins and supplements can help. And a balanced diet plan is a must. Nutritious recipes for cooking can help. We know all these things, at least in the back of our minds. But the consequences of not getting enough high nutrition foods is very serious.

Consequences…

Proper elderly nutrition and eating habits are crucial to maintain quality of life: control blood sugar levels to avoid diabetes, maintain good vision, a positive mood, good sleep, better eyesight, energy, bone and muscle strength, digestion, good elimination, etc. These are severely affected with poor diet, causing sometimes serious elderly nutrition problems.

Startling Studies and Statistics

Some of the studies I came upon floored me. Elderly nutrition problems are, and have been, an important concern for health officials — the Centers for Disease Control estimate that by 2030 the U.S. population will double, to about 71 million older adults. That is about one in every five people.

We are, as they say, on the “brink of a longevity revolution.” It is crucial that we focus on a healthy lifestyle, and nutrition tops the list.

In 2000 the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion did a study with a group of elderly, their nutrition, and elderly nutrition problems. The average age in the study was 72.3 years old, with 48% men and 52% women.

They concluded that elderly who did not eat sufficient amounts of quality food (i.e. meat, fish, vegetables) took in, of course, less calories, good carbs, good fats, and protein. Key vitamins and minerals (such as the B’s, iron and zinc) that are crucial to brain and immune system function were also lacking. They thus were more greatly susceptible to infection, as well as cognitive disorders and chronic illness.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) studies also say that of Americans over age 65, malnutrition and obesity are common. This can be partly due to having to cheap, nutrition-less food. Because of budget concerns. In fact, the studies indicate that if the elderly receive what is known as “nutritional intervention,” many diseases could be prevented.

One of the most startling studies to me was this…
Intervention studies
indicate that malnutrition is a major reason for hospitalization for the elderly — one of the more severe elderly nutrition problems. As we age have the same Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) as when we were young, with Vitamins D, B6, and calcium as exceptions.

Yet the elderly don’t need as many calories. I certainly realized this with Dad. So with less calories, often these needed nutrients are not obtained. Women need even fewer calories, so can have even a more difficult time.

It is evident that highly nutritious foods with lower calories are vital, and a wide variety of foods in moderate portions. But many elderly enjoy comfort food and snacking — often their choices are not healthy.

Dad loved to just nibble. He got to a point when he only vaguely cared about the nutritional value of his food. I had to care for him. So healthy  snacks are a very important means of getting those nutrient-dense foods.

Food Stamps can assist the elderly in obtaining healthy groceries, yet according to the U.S. government, very few participate because of lack of information about the program and as importantly, about nutritional need. They do not perceive that there is an elderly nutrition problem. Many elderly also perceive a negative stigma attached to Food Stamps.

There are other elderly nutrition problems, however. They’re serious, sometimes subtle elderly dietary problems are from changes in eating patterns. And we need to get to the root of it, as they pose a real health threat.

There are many reasons for poor eating
Like the inability to grocery shop, poor digestion, chewing difficulties including difficulties with dentures, poor appetite. Loved ones may pick at food, or even forget to eat. Or they might just like what they like, and it’s not necessarily all good. And oh how stubborn older folks can sometimes be!

There are also specialty concerns, such as diabetes. And if your loved one has any kind of serious vision loss, there is a special recommended nutrition for eyes that you should know about. It’s particularly for vision and macular degeneration nutrition. This eye disease is one of Dad’s major issues. Macular degeneration extremely common. So I was particularly interested in anything that can help prevent or help this. An eye doctor can tell you about this particular nutrition for eyes if you are concerned.

Solutions

No doubt a number of preventative measures can assist in elderly heath besides good nutrition.

Also important are regular exercise (which aids in all body functions including digestion), quitting tobacco products, and getting regular preventative medical check-ups, including for dementia screening (dementia greatly impacts eating and nutrition), and depression. Other issues can occur with elderly nutritition food safety as well, and we discuss more solutions on that page.

An interesting consideration which I personally have used for years, — Goat milk products have special properties that can help provide proper nutrition for the elderly. You can read more about this topic at a web site called Everything Goat Milk; see Elderly Nutrition and Goat Milk.

The Centers for Disease Control state that although there is, of course, a higher possibility of poor health as we age, it is not an inevitable consequence!

Follow our link below and learn more about elderly nutrition and what you can do.

Easy Healthy Recipes — Our “recipe central,” with lots of great recipes and links within our site to take you to more healthy recipes you might like to find out more about.
Healthy Snack Recipes — Especially important for those with elderly nutrition problems. Learn lots of easy and nutritious recipes.
Delicious Healthy Dessert Recipes — Something for almost everyone, including those with sugar, carb, and fat restrictions. Learn new recipes and ideas for sweetening the healthy way.

Our Share Your Recipe Forums — Where our readers have shared their own recipes right on our web site. You can too. Our readers would love to hear from you!!
Share Your Healthy Desserts
More Healthy Snack Recipes – From You


to Elderly Nutrition

Elderly health care issues may be sudden & swift.

…To both senior citizens and their caregivers. This is what happened with our Dad when he suddenly called us from Arizona, his voice trembling on the phone. He said he could no longer live alone.

Dad had woken up that morning and what little vision he had was now so bad he couldn’t read a thing. It impacted most senior activities that he was involved in.

His eyes had had a bleeding episode overnight, from his macular degeneration.

Sometimes we are fortunate to age in place slowly. In either case, recent studies by AARP have estimated that family and friends, themselves, provide care of the elderly (unpaid) worth over $360 billion per year.

Elderly Health Care Issues

Caregiving Issues

I first learned about elderly issues and caregiving when I was a child. My grandparents lived next door (my mother was a nurse). Grandpa had had a stroke and Grandma had a heart condition. So I was assigned many caregiving duties to help out, which I enjoyed. That experienced peaked my interest in senior activities and caregiving later in life. Including becoming the primary caregiver for my father when he was 93 1/2.

Nowadays many caregivers, of course, are baby boomers who themselves have full- or part-time jobs. And often their own children at home. They’re part of the “sandwich generation.” Worrying about elderly health care and caregiver duties triggers a myriad of concerns.

Our seniors experience stress, and so do caregivers. As we know, our attitude and thinking are of utmost importance, as they can impact the very chemistry and physiology of our brains and moods, and thus our health.

It makes all the difference in the world. Keeping stress down midst the issues of aging is important. And we have some really good ideas in this web site, including a special page, Creative Elderly Stress Activities.

Dealing with Changes

It is true that sometimes a sudden crisis may occur that catapults you into a series of unexpected events. Or perhaps certain conditions have been gradual, but now have become real elderly problems. We need to somehow cope. There may be many new questions (and I had a gazillion of them). They may include —

We had to ask ourselves, what type of housing is now needed? What kind of elderly assistance will be best in this situation — should we care for Dad in my home? What are the fundamentals of caregiving, and where do we get quality home healthcare information? What about assisted living? We decided on that to begin with.

As our loved ones age, we must be observant about habits and lifestyles we used to take for granted. And to listen. Seniors often “ask” without asking. I really had to learn to “listen between the lines” with Dad. I could tell he was afraid of losing his dignity or independence, so there were only hints. But if we observe, we can find the cllues that hint at special elderly problems.

Elderly problems can mean a change in routine or care of elderly. If you’ve noticed specific changes, talk them over with your loved one. One of the most startling changes that happened with Dad was his changing memory — and he knew it. And also that his vision got even worse after he decided to stop getting his eye injections for macular degeneration. These issues were tough to talk about, but it had to be done.

Communication

Express your concern, but involve them in the solution as much as possible. This is what we had to do with Dad when we moved him back here from Arizona. I tend to want to jump in and take charge, be efficient, get things resolved quickly. But if the issue was not pressing, I needed to step back and encourage Dad to participate with me. This took some patience.

Discuss the changes you’ve noticed and offer to help an elderly parent or friend in small ways at first — perhaps with grocery shopping, laundry, or paying bills. Most do want to stay independent as long as possible.

Good elderly nutrition is vital for overall well-being. Issues with nutrition are a very big factor with elderly health care. In fact, studies have shown that actual malnutrition is one of the biggest reasons elderly become hospitalized. (We go into this further in our Nutrition area). That was shocking to me.

Establishing a new routine of care for the elderly may cause resistance. Even by family members or friends. Dad had his set schedule and was forever wanting to know what time it was, so he could stick to it. Sometimes I let certain things slide a little because changes were always so difficult to deal with. It may be easier to just go into denial for awhile. To deal with it later. That may be OK for some issues, but terrible for others…

Is the Clock Ticking

Because in some instances, your loved one’s clock is ticking and “awhile” could trigger a crisis with elderly health care. Examples may involve the causes of blindness or hearing loss. There are many types of blindness for which detection and treatment are timely, including from diabetes, glaucoma, or cataracts.  Cataract treatment is very common and easy, and cataract surgery recovery involves very few problems.

A senior’s vision issues, for instance, may be the result of macular degeneration, as was the case with Dad. There are treatments now that can halt its progress, but they are timely. Macular degeneration nutrition can help – but as a preventative measure. Waiting may cause some irreparable damage, which is what happened to Dad when he had his crisis. (If you want to learn about our experience with the avastin macular degeneration eyeball shot, just click the link). Yet, we learned many great tips for macular degeneration help.

Seeking Professional Help

If you have major concerns or are unsure about discussing these elderly issues with your loved one, involve a professional. In my case, my sister is a geriatric nurse, plus I was in regular contact with our church parish nurse.

It is also extremely important to receive regular dementia screening.  The most updated world-wide dementia report was issued in the fall of 2009 (we discuss this in our Dementia section) notating that this elderly health care problem had increased to almost epidemic proportions globally. And will continue to be on the rise.

The elderly often accept directives from a professional that they would resist if coming from a family member. Giving up driving, for instance. That can be one of the most traumatic elderly problems that must be faced. Some elderly get upset to the point of becoming combative when they get their keys taken away.

Attend the appointments with your loved one, and go prepared. I’m a lover of lists, so I always made a list of questions and concerns about Dad’s issues in advance. And wrote down everything the doctor said.

You Are Not Alone

In recommending solutions, a professional may also include intervention as needed. If an acute event has already occurred and your elderly loved one is in the hospital, an expert (a social worker or discharge planner) will usually be assigned to review options. This thankfully takes us as caregivers out of the picture of being the decision maker.

There are many resources to help you. Elderly health care is not something we need to deal with alone. And shouldn’t.

More About Elderly Health Care:

Falls in Elderly – The Game Changer — Falls in elderly are the main reason for accidents & injuries for age 65 and over. There are specific causes for falls. Do you know them? And the preventions?
Facing Elderly Stress Issues — I recently was stunned about a lack of perception regarding elderly stress issues by some people, and the many misconceptions of just what our elderly go through. Read what was said and how I responded. How will we cope when we go through these challenges?
Health, Music and Mood — Is there a correlation between health, music and mood? You may already know that music can make us healthier. Get the amazing scoop on why music and Mozart beat the blues and mend the mind and immunity.
How To Get Happy — Of course one of the important aspects to elderly health care is being positive. And we’ve learned some fun information.

Home Page


Special Resources Related To Elderly Health Care
See these other web sites:

Massage Education Guide helps you understand the great health benefits that massage therapy can provide to elderly men and women! Relaxation for our bodies and our minds!

For women — Check out this great resource for women: WomenOver40Health.com A Guide for women over 40, working together for empowerment and good health.

I recently was stunned about a lack of perception regarding elderly stress issues. (Not by everyone, of course). But I was really surprised to learn in an online Q&A forum about seniors, of the many misconceptions on just what our elderly may be going through, and how it affects them.

The lead question in this particular forum was, in fact, a bit snippy. The person who asked it simply wondered why old people are always so “mean and crabby.” Then there were a few caustic comments about, “yeah, really.”

After reading for a bit, my fingers flew over the keyboard a mile a minute, and I asked the writers to consider a few of the elderly stress issues these “old people” face every day – as will they, themselves, some day.

Like…
How would you feel if…

A variety of elderly stress issues are related to financial challenges…

  • You hardly have enough money to live on.
  • You may not realize that financial elderly assistance is available to you.
  • There’s hardly enough to pay the bills. Including medications.
  • You may be concerned about losing your home.
  • You live on a very limited, set budget. New clothing and entertainment are few. 
  • Your budget was so tight that it was difficult to get the kinds of healthy food you want, which affects elderly nutrition.

Elderly stress issues can cause isolation and loneliness…

  • You can’t get around very well and it’s hard to get to the store, for anything.
  • Your car keys were taken away and you can’t drive anymore
  • You hardly have anyone to come and visit you.
  • You had to move out of your home of many years into a strange facility where you hardly know anyone. The move was very unsettling. The change in routine is also very unsettling. (Moving is a major stressor for seniors and often leads to further illness).

A lot of elderly stress issues are health related…

  • You have some chronic health problems that cause you a lot of discomfort.
  • You’re sick and tired of going to the doctor.
  • Chronic pain is something you deal with daily.
  • Plus, it’s difficult to sleep and you have constant insomnia. You are always tired.
  • You can hardly see and/or hear, so socializing is very difficult and awkward.
  • And doing daily tasks or entertaining yourself has become difficult too.
  • You have problems with your feet and legs, so it’s hard to walk. If you even can anymore. Your mobility has become very limited.
  • You’re afraid of falling and breaking something, which would cause a whole myriad of further problems and pain – and maybe you already have, so you know.
  • And your hands don’t work as well either.
  • There have been problems with your teeth, but dental care is expensive. Chewing and eating have become more of a problem. So eating is not as enjoyable anymore.
  • Plus, you are on a restricted diet and can’t eat your favorite foods.
  • You’re afraid of having incontinence accidents, and maybe you already have. So you have to really consider what you can participate in, and where.
  • You know you’ve lost a lot of your memory and it unnerves you. As my dad once said: “I know I’ve had a really interesting life, but I can’t remember a lot of it.”

Many of these elderly stress issues do affect the mood…

  • Sometimes you just don’t understand what the point is anymore.
  • You don’t feel like doing much of anything anymore. Even TV is hard to see and hear; and music is hard to hear. It feels like there’s nothing interesting to do.
  • You’ve lost a lot of your independence, and so many activities have become so difficult now.
  • You feel lonely and isolated. Even with others around in a facility or campus.
  • You no longer feel needed or significant.
  • It seems life has been full of losses… of loved ones and friends, financial security, a pet, a home, familiarity, social interaction, mobility, health, independence, hobbies and things to do, food you loved, your memory. And your looks.
  • It seems the world has changed into an entirely different place, to the point where you hardly recognize it anymore. Sometimes it seems like you’re living on a different planet. (It may be best to keep watching the news to a minimum.)
  • Every day you fight to not feel depressed, but you often do anyway. (No wonder. Any one of these elderly stress issues could contribute to depression in seniors.
  • You feel like you’re losing your mind (and you may be).

Despite this list of very daunting elderly stress issues – and these are just some – so many of our seniors face their challenges with strength, grace, acceptance, and a positive attitude.

But let’s get real. It would be hard for anyone, especially the elderly, to be perpetually cheerful through it all, and so our elders may seem at times (or a lot) a bit “crabby and mean.”  Keep in mind, it is typical for a senior to be challenged by at least a dozen of these elderly stress issues at any time. At least a dozen. And these are supposed to be The Golden Years.

So what’s to be done?

There are many ways to help relieve elderly stress issues.
Be sure to see our page all about Creative Elderly Stress Activities, for starters.

And there are other things, like good nutrition, appropriate elderly health care with correct medication, and a good program of exercise for seniors. We have various ideas on our web site for you to explore.

Our population is aging, and it is vital we understand this time of life and all of its concerns (and joys too). Perhaps listen and learn. Maybe find ways to help out. There are lots of volunteer possibilities, not to mention careers in related fields (see our page on volunteer ideas). What goes around comes around, as they say.

And when our turn comes around, how will we cope?

Be sure to also read:

Signs of Elderly Problems — There are telling signs of elderly problems. Some of these problems are often hidden and can cause major stressors. It is crucial to learn to tell the signs for the health and safety of loved ones.
Health, Music and Mood — Read some interesting findings on music and how it can help with elderly stress issues.

to Elderly Health Care

Tai Chi for seniors, I believe, is one of the best modes of exercise around. I have practiced Tai Chi (the full name is Tai Chi Chuan) or yoga off and on over the years.

As you may know, it comes from ancient China as a martial art at first, later developing into an effective and healthful exercise routine, as well as relaxing. Similarly, yoga can relax and re-energize as well, but you need to be aware of certain factors when practicing yoga for seniors.

I first became familiar with Tai Chi back around 1993 or so when my kids were still kids, via a friend in martial arts. She invited us to a demonstration given by her school one evening. Towards the middle of the demo, the instructor had us all stand up and taught us some simple movements for about ten minutes.

Well, let me just say — I was astonished with how I became energized. In the evening when I would have been ready to crash. It felt like my whole body was sort of buzzing with energy. I was clear-headed and full of enthusiasm. All in ten minutes.

Tai Chi For Seniors – Basics

Concepts

Briefly, Tai Chi was begun by a Chinese Taoist monk who modeled the movements (also now known as Sets or Forms) that he developed loosely after various animal movements.

It also incorporates the ancient concept of our yin and yang energies and keeping them in balance for better health (now very familiar even in the West). The ancient philosophy stresses relaxation and tranquility. 

Tai Chi for seniors involves a series of very slow-motion, relaxed movements, one flowing into the next, so that the body is continually in a graceful motion until finished. It is almost dance-like and meditative.

It can be practiced either alone or in a group. (It’s ideal for doing outdoors on your patio or park area). These are low-impact motions, yet are considered weight-bearing, so excellent for increasing bone and muscle strength.

Deep breathing is included, so Tai Chi is also a mildly aerobic exercise routine. Concentrating on the movements and breathing together helps us become more able to relax our thinking and emotions.

I can also say that it definitely helps with better sleep (aging and sleep issues often go hand in hand), and it is an effective restless leg syndrome treatment as well. It’s also good for your heart. Another benefit is lowering blood sugar levels for those with Type 2 diabetes.

Overall, the benefits of Tai Chi make it an excellent exercise for seniors. Besides muscle and bone strength, sleep improvement and help with restless legs, it can also help us develop better posture, balance, thus less chance for falling. And as I mentioned earlier, another result is an increase in energy levels.

As with other routines that involve body movements, stiffness and mild pain can greatly improve (although you might experience temporary slight stiffness or soreness from the exercising itself). Tai Chi for seniors is often recommended for those with arthritis. It can be very good for general elderly health care.

Best Ways To Learn

But as usual, before you begin any exercise program, be sure to check with your health professional. It may be possible to modify some of the movements as needed.

It’s best to learn Tai Chi for seniors from an instructor because each movement should ideally be done in a specific way, especially if it needs to be individualized. Physical therapists have included modified movements in their work with patients.

Many senior centers offer classes, as do yoga centers. And if you can get a group together, these instructors may agree to come to your facility or campus to conduct classes there for you. It’s a great group activity idea.

Tai Chi is fast becoming a more and more popular way to improve health for all ages, including as exercises for the elderly.

to Easy Exercise For Seniors

We have had several comments and requests for elderly music activities in recent months. Many of our readers are familiar with the benefits (including for health) of using music with seniors and the more elderly. (Great for kids too). And they’ve also read our page on Health, Music and Mood.

One of the most easy and enjoyable ways for seniors to learn and play their own music is with chimes. The simple way. So we’ve invited experts in the field, at Musical Pipes, to be a guest writer and discuss this in a unique article for our site.

One of our activity consultants is very familiar with these ideas, has played chimes herself, and highly recommends it as an activity, because you don’t need to take lessons, practice, read music, or even know much about music.

Tips on Elderly Music with Chimes

Here is what our guest writer Jay from Musical Pipes says about using pipe chimes…

…..”If you have ever played handheld pipe chimes you know just how much fun they can be and how easy they are to play.  After all, you won’t need to know how to read complicated sheet music and is as simple as hitting your one chime when it’s your turn in the song. 

No musical talent required! So it’s perfect for elderly music. Playing pipe chimes is a great group activity where people of all ages can play together without any practice and is a loved holiday tradition for many families. 

Enjoy fun songs that you’ll recognize ranging from over 200 Christmas, religious and children’s songs that we all heard while growing up like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, When The Saints Go Marching In, Old McDonald and On Top Of Old Smoky, just to name a few.

Elderly music for one, or a group — With the addition of some uniquely designed cradle holders,  you can turn your same handheld pipe chime set into a xylophone. This allows just one person to enjoy the same songs without the need of a large group. 

You can even dramatically simplify things by removing all the chimes/notes that you don’t need for each song.  In some cases, you can play a whole song with only five chimes in front of you.  It’s a great learning tool and a fun activity for all ages.
 
Making your own set can also be fairly easy with the use of some simple tools, time and accuracy.  After all, these are just metal pipes cut to the correct length that make such a beautiful sound. 

Click here for free instructions on how to make your own pipe chime set and storage bag

Sets Or, if you’d rather someone else do the work, you can purchase an affordable complete or fully customized set, including 23 pipe chimes, a heavy duty storage bag, metal strikers, cradle holders, wooden mallets and song books from Musical Pipes where everything is hand made.

Music Books — One more thing, you can get all the pipe chime music for free online

or you can purchase either a PDF or printed version of each song book with some very useful aids — including how many pipes are used for each song, an index, a list of chimes needed for each song and how often they are used, etc. 

The PDF version allows you to print out each song however you’d like (on large posters for example) or even display them on a big screen or TV.  In any case, the printed song books and PDFs are well worth it.  There are many other helpful hints and tricks on how to play your pipe chime set.
 
As Musical Pipe’s slogan goes, “It’s chime to start making music!”
…Jay, at Musical Pipes
 

There is now a nice song book with Familiar Tunes. Perfect for the senior age group. The Familiar Tunes song book has 60 songs in it that seniors will most likely recognize (folk songs, traditional songs, camp fire songs, patriotic songs, etc.). And easy to learn and use.

So see if elderly music with chimes would work with your group or family. I love the idea of having an activity with making chimes yourself. (You would need someone to help who has access to basic tools, and the ability to use them). And having access to a PDF version of the music to print out and display on a large screen is great.

Elderly music activities are wonderful additions to get-togethers, parties (if you  need ideas, see our page on party theme ideas), special meals, events, etc. And the use of chimes is an easy way for many to participate and have the satisfaction of creating music of their own (rather than always just listening).

It’s simple enough for children too, and some of the music books Musical Pipes has were written for children originally, but also used extensively for seniors as well. So consider how you might include making music with your group.

Be sure to also read:

Senior Activities – by the Month  — Our “Master Page” to help you get loads of senior activities for each of the individual 12 months, plus other General ideas to do throughout the 4 seasons. You’ll never run out of thnigs to do! Some are quite unique.

Fun Elderly Activities

There are solutions and macular degeneration help available for those who suffer from this eye disease. I am personally familiar with this concerning issue, since I am the caregiver of my aging father, who has had it for well over a decade. We don’t know how long for sure.

Dad was formally diagnosed in his mid-80s, but he may have had age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in his late 70s. In those days, not much could be done. And so he had to get inventive. We eventually learned about special vision and macular degeneration nutrition, but at Dad’s stage, actual prevention with nutrition was too late.

Everyday tasks that were once simple slowly become almost overwhelming to deal with. It is sometimes difficult for those with normal vision to imagine just how an ARMD patient sees. How it impact the activities they can and cannot do. (I was always on the hunt for more senior activity ideas for him).

And why they need specific macular degeneration help. This is how it was explained to me…

TRY THIS. Take a very large print and holding it off the side of your vision. Keep looking straight ahead, but let your eyes only focus on the large print to the side using only your periphery vision, and try to identify it.

This is the only way an ARMD patient can see, and it takes a big adjustment. Patients may also complain of blurry vision, and needing extremely bright light and magnification.

Macular Degeneration Help

Dad’s solutions came in steps
as his vision declined. At first it was fairly easy; mom was still alive to be supportive too. In those days there was not much available for treatment. And hardly anyone knew about specific macular degeneration help.

But eventually mom passed away; he was living alone and independently down in Arizona, and he wanted to keep it that way.

When Dad was in his late 70s, he talked about blurry vision, but thought it was just due to old age. After all, his mother had had it. He could still do quite a few senior activities. But it was hard for him to read, so he started doing the usual types of things people used for macular degeneration help at that time — wearing glasses and switched to large print reading materials.

But soon that was not enough. He commented that more light helped a lot, so he rigged up two really bright spot lights on the walls by his easy chair. Sometimes he’d also use a magnifying glass. Then a lighted magnifying glass.

Then pretty soon, we noticed Dad was reading with one of those magnifying visorsthat you wear around your head. Soon he got one with a built-in light. In addition to his spot lights. And sometimes his other magnifying glass.

Then he began to shine a high-intensity LED flashlight onto his reading material too. (This especially helped with his watch (see photo to the right), which was now a large dial watch.) In addition to his spot lights. And lighted visor.

By the way, he eventually could not read the numbers on his watch, but if he cocked his head just right to use the periphery vision in his better eye, he could see how the dials were pointing. Although he sometimes got the large and small hands confused. Which caused major confusion in his schedule.

Dad found that Light and contrast were absolute necessities for optimum macular degeneration help. But when he came out of the light, he was always commenting on how dark it was. Even though to everyone else, it was sunny and bright in the room. It took his eyes a very long time to re-adjust to light vs. dimmer or dark. He was also having difficulty driving at night, or in rain, fog, or very cloudy weather. It was about this time, when he was still in Arizona, that he began getting the avastin macular degeneration injections.

Eventually he could no longer even read large-print books, even with all of his gadgets. It was about this same time when he woke up one morning and could no longer read the labels on items in his cupboards or at the grocery store. That is when he called us in a panic and no longer wanted to live alone. We moved him from Arizona back to our home state.

By this time Dad had to use a high-tech electronic reading machine. This was mainly good for reading mail, letters, pamphlets, directions, articles, small gift-sized books, etc. Regular sized books were too difficult.

He needed more and more magnification, until he got to the point where he could only get a half of a sentence on the screen at at time. It was way to klutzy, and he finally gave up. It was a very sad day when he had to give up reading totally, as he had been an avid reader his whole life. One of him main hobbies. It was a real adjustment.

More Special Products and Devices

There were many more types of macular degeneration help that we took advantage of…
Right away we got a huge clock with gigantic numbers and dials. This was one of the few things he could still actually see when he was in his late 90s. There were also the large-print books and playing cards, can be found at libraries and special libraries for the blind. Large-print Sudoku games and crossword puzzle books are found in most stores. These are all excellent for macular degeneration help — for awhile.

These are excellent forms of mind stimulation – exercising the brain is as important as exercising the body. It takes practice and patience, though, to learn to see and use these aids using only peripheral vision.

Free Help

Check with state and local agencies for the blind for availability of books on tape. This became a life saver for Dad (until he became too deaf even for that). Public libraries often have a selection such books well. Audio entertainment is an excellent alternate source of macular degeneration help. Specialized recorders may also be requested for those who also have hearing loss.

States, counties, and non-profit agencies can sometimes supply free technology (reading machines and books on tape recorders), lighted magnifying glasses, adhesive buttons to attach to numbers on phones and microwaves, to name a few.

Since macular degeneration is a disease of central vision, the peripheral vision remains. All states offer rehabilitation services for the blind, and important macular degeneration information. Independent living skills are taught, as well as using peripheral vision. Often a case worker will make a scheduled home visit.

Training in using peripheral vision is important. A conscious effort must be made to discover which area of the eye and which angle is best used. By holding up a bright, colored object and moving it to different places in the outer line of vision, a person can become accustomed as to which is the best area of the eye to look through. This may involve holding the head at different angles than usual, and may seem awkward at first.

Other types of macular degeneration help involve training other senses. Eventually a person adjusts to their new condition and can learn to become aware of sense of touch.

For instance, we attached adhesive buttons to Dad’s large-print phone and microwave (when he was still able to use one), on the numbers 1 and 3 (in the corners), 5 (in the middle), 7 and 9 (in the corners, as well as on the Start button when appropriate.

The placement of buttons on all devices is consistent, on the same number pattern. Now Dad could feel to dial the phone and use the microwave.

Using the stove top and oven, of course, are no longer possible. They were removed when he was in assisted living. With the phone, we did get one with adjustable volume and tone as his hearing declined.

Since it is difficult to see faces and individual features, it is helpful to train people who approach to announce who they are, such as, “Hi Fred, Joe here.” A person with macular degeneration can learn to use peripheral vision to identify general body shapes, perhaps gestures and body postures.

Seeing general shapes and color will give certain amount of visual cues to the environment. Because macular degeneration does not involve blindness from birth, people have associations for certain textures, colors, smells, shapes, etc.

These will help them get mental pictures of items and clothing they are familiar with. Talking about them aloud with your loved one will help trigger these memory associations.

Macular degeneration help also means being aware of environmental sounds as cues to what is going on and where you are. Patients do begin to rely on other senses and can become very sensitive to household noise and discerning different footsteps of other people, even the patter of pets.

Listening to music, lectures, radio, may become enjoyable pastimes. The smell of the outdoors, gardens, food, homes, stores and other buildings, becomes stronger.

People with macular degeneration learn to adjust by enjoying other activities and skills, and can lead impressively independent lives after receiving help. Be sure to also see our page just for Activities For Elderly with Vision Loss.

to Elderly Health Care

elderly exercise

Exercise for seniors and baby boomers has been hammered into us.  And there are equipment and gadgets galore. So why not make it easy, fun… and even a game.

We’ve been told exercise is one of the most important measures we can take to improve our independence and health as we age. Both for ourselves and as part of the elderly health care for those we may be taking care of.

It’s also really, really important if you’ve been a caregiver like me.

I had to make sure Dad did enough exercise of the right kind – thankfully, he’s always enjoyed it. But I also need it for myself, as a baby boomer caregiver.

For the specific exercises, including those of Dad’s in his 90s, see our page on fun exercises for the elderly.

Why Exercise for Seniors ?

If you’re feeling burdened or overwhelmed in any way, or tend towards depression (which can happen to most of us sometime during life), exercise truly helps. For me, exercise is the one sure way to get the brain chemistry back in balance when I am battling with feeling down or sluggish.

We’ve probably all heard all of the reasons why we should exercise since we get it in the media and magazines on a regular basis. But here is a summary of some excellent reasons we need to exercise as we age, according to the Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Reasons To Exercise
Exercise for seniors…

    * Is good for your heart
    * Stabilizes blood pressure
    * Increases proper lung functioning
    * Improves back pain
    * Decreases joint pain and stiffness
    * Is excellent for weight control
    * Strengthens the immune system
    * Helps manage diabetes and glucose levels
    * Increases muscles strength
    * Improves flexibility
    * Helps with arthritis pain, including rheumatoid arthritis
    * Helps maintain good balance
    * Improves overall walking ability
    * Reduces falls and injuries
    * Strengthens bones and improves bone density
    * Lifts your mood and helps with depression
    * Calms and relaxes, and can ease anxiety
    * Improves aging and sleep problems
    * Lessens daytime drowsiness
    * Improves restless leg syndrome (RLS) and leg cramps
    * Can provide important social activity too

We may know all this. But do we do it? Many of us still resist – but why? Sometimes out of habit, sometimes for health reasons. Maybe we think we don’t have time. Or maybe we’re just a little lazy? Some us think exercise can be flat-out boring. But for older folks, exercise can also come in the form of many different elderly games.

As far as I’m concerned, first and foremost, it’s got to be fun. (Unless you’re having to do a rehabilitation routine, of course). I am one of those who resist exercise unless it is really appealing. Or necessary, like house work and yard work. And yes, those are included as forms of exercise. Plus, I do it in front of the TV, especially the Home and Garden channel.

I also have to bribe myself to exercise – give myself a special reward when I’m done.  Plus it’s got to be easy – and exercise for seniors and boomers can be very easy, including while sitting and reclining.

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the average person 65 years or older, exercise for seniors should ideally include both:

    a) Aerobic (cardio) exercise to increase heart and lungs activity;
    b) Plus strength training for the various muscle groups.

The major muscle groups include: arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips, legs. Exercise for seniors should include using these muscles groups several times per week.

Here is a simple breakdown of the ideal amount of exercise for seniors:

  • 2 ½ hours of moderate aerobic (cardio) exercise each week (including brisk walking) and muscle strengthening for all muscle groups a couple days a week; OR
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobics and muscle strengthening for all muscle groups a couple days a week.

Any of this can be done in (at least) 10 minute segments throughout the day and week. It takes a good 10 minutes of any activity for it to really be effective. Stretching and joint exercises can also be included. And what is considered moderate exercise for seniors, may be vigorous for others. Like walking.

It depends on what shape your body is in (and we’re not all going to look like the picture here), what you are used to, and your overall health. Moderate exercise will simply make your heart beat faster and you will breathe harder.

With vigorous exercise like running, you will also break into a sweat. And if the mere idea of running makes you gasp in advance (like me), then just walk. As rapidly as possible. I guess they call this “power waking.” Walking alone will make me break into a sweat after awhile.

Sweating is healthy for you, of course, for your liver and for cleansing toxins out of your body. Just be sure to shower afterwards, or the toxins can be reabsorbed, one of my health professional friends has advised me. And as we age we should always consult our doctors or health professionals regarding exercise for seniors and middle-aged folks too, especially if we have health issues.

This all may seem like a tall order. At least to me.
Sometimes you have to first just get started in a small way, and then build it up. I know that if I jump into anything too fast and too much, I won’t keep it up.

Exercise for seniors is meant to be flexible and fun, even social. If you don’t know where to start, check out the following possibilities in your area:

    Senior center
    Fitness club
    Church groups
    Some local clinics and wellness centers offer exercise classes
    YWCA or YMCA
    Community ed center

Whatever you choose to do, be sure to always consult your medical professional first if you have any concerns. And pay attention to your own body. The most important thing is – to get moving – even in a small way! And consistently!

More on exercise for seniors and elderly:

Fun Exercises For The ElderlyGet specific exercises. At age 97, Dad is a champ with exercises for the elderly. We’re sharing what we do for many ability levels.
Tai Chi For Seniors — Tai Chi for seniors is based on an ancient Chinese tradition. But you may be surprised about how adaptable and beneficial it really is.
Yoga For Seniors — We have excellent ideas about yoga for seniors, even if you are chair or home bound (like we are). And if you’re an activities director, you can also learn to “teach” a mini yoga class yourself, the easy way.


to Elderly Health Care

If you are a caregiver,
do you have an elderly help Plan?

Do you need a Plan? If you’re giving or needing elderly help for a loved one, you may surprised at what you’ll need to know about. I sure was. And, I learned, success is in the details.

Caregiving can come upon us suddenly like it did with our Dad. Or perhaps you were lucky and life gradually progressed along. No matter what the circumstances you are dealing with, from nutrition to senior activities, this page will help you quickly and methodically create a Plan, or hone your current one.

I’m a list person, so I make lists for everything. The checklists below may help you too. They encompass the main areas of caregiving – health care, safety, personal needs, social needs, and daily tasks and housekeeping.

This page has been developed to help you figure out the help you or your loved one may need. It involves detail, so a Plan will make it less stressful and more satisfying. You can get specific information about the various signs of elderly problems at the link.

If your loved one has been hospitalized, some of the decisions about elderly help will be made for you or with you by a health care professional or social services representative. You may be advised that they must move to assisted living or a nursing home, either temporarily or permanently.

Health Care:

A good elderly help Plan consists of first discovering and dealing with health care issues. These will also trigger lots of other needs. You will get information on some items below because of hospital stays or visits with elderly health care providers.

If you are caring for elderly parents, go with them to their medical appointments to make sure everything is understood correctly and can be carried out.

Make a list in advance of your questions and discussion items regarding your elderly help Plan and health concerns. Speak with the doctors yourself, and repeat back the information given.

Write it down so everyone is very clear about diagnosis and procedures. This eliminates confusion or misinterpretation by your loved one who may not hear or understand well.

Many elderly people will only cooperate if they hear information directly from their doctor. Find out what will work regarding care of elderly in-home. My Dad, for instance, had severe hearing and vision loss and is almost deaf and blind.

Here is a list of possible health concerns. When making your plan, remember to ask yourself:

Who, What, When, How.

Make sure medical appointments are up-to-date
___ Needs help setting and remembering appointments
___ Needs help getting to appointments
___ Medication reminders
___ Medication set up
___ Total medication management
___ Needs help picking up prescriptions
___ Shows signs of vision loss – needs vision aid
___ Shows signs of hearing loss – needs hearing aid
___ Needs special equipment – a walker, cane, wheelchair
___ Shows signs of incontinence
___ Needs foot care
___ Needs ear cleaning care
___ Needs regular exercise
___ Has frequent bruising or sores
___ Skin tone has obvious changes
___ Pre- or post-surgery care
___ Wound care
___ Skin condition care
___ Loss of appetite
___ Daily “I’m OK” check-in
___ Talk to a health care social worker about resources for help
___ Talk to a social worker, state or county about public benefits and aid.
___ Understand Medicare and Medicaid guidelines for aid
___ If the elderly was a veteran, talk to the VA about aid
___ Ask any professional helping you about elderly assistance
___ Other

Safety:

A strong elderly help Plan includes many safety issues, some that result from health problems. Seniors often try to fiercely maintain their independence. They may not even mention they are having problems. They may only leave subtle clues that something has happened.

When it was time for Dad to move in with me, safety measures were of primary importance. But we really had to watch and pick his brain to discover exactly to what extent. It is important to be observant especially about frequent forgetfulness, otherwise you may never know what is really going on.

Here are some of the safety issues that may need attention.

___ Not able to use stairs
___ Frequently trips
___ Trips on carpet or other flooring – no longer safe
___ Falls that cause injuries
___ Has more bruising or sores
___ Slips in bathroom, at either tub or toilet
___ Needs walker or cane
___ Causes cooking accidents or fires
___ Forgets to turn off stove or water
___ Remove or unplug stove and oven
___ Remove or unplug microwave
___ Monitor age of food in refrigerator
___ Forgets to lock doors or close windows
___ Does not regulate temperature in home
___ Causes spills
___ Forgets where he/she is in familiar places
___ No longer safe to drive
___ Needs emergency response device or pendant
___ Other

Personal Needs:

All facets of an elderly help Plan require sensitivity to personal dignity. And patience. As we age, daily personal routines and grooming tasks become more difficult or even impossible.

Elderly people who had been used to taking care of others, now find themselves needing help with basic daily tasks. This is a sensitive issue when caring for elderly parents. It can cause embarrassment to them. And maybe to you.

Being very honest, understanding and supportive is the best way. There are many solutions that allow caring for the elderly in-home, and outside help from a home healthcare service may be needed. Review the list below and add any additional areas for elderly help.

___ Cannot transfer from chair or bed or toilet
___ Bathing assistance
___ Buttoning help
___ Dressing help
___ Putting on shoes or tying shoes
___ Shaving, washing, brushing teeth
___ Toenail clipping and foot grooming
___ Other grooming needs
___ Toileting assistance
___ Needs special incontinence products

Social Needs:

An elderly help Plan also must include social needs and various senior activities. This can be a vital part of any healing process. You can imagine that the changes mentioned above can have a huge impact on the elderly person psychologically.

One of the reasons Dad moved in with me rather than stay in assisted living is because due to his hearing and vision loss, it was impossible for him to socialize or participate in groups. He could not see who he was talking to and so could not recognize or identify anyone who came up to him. Nor could he understand much of what they were saying.

Health and nutrition issues can cause changes to healthy brain processes too, and can cause confusion and depression. You can find help available through a health care provider familiar with care of elderly. A strong social support system is an important factor in dealing with elderly issues. Here are some items to review for social needs.

___ Lost interest in former hobbies and activities
___ Little conversation with friends and family
___ Needs scheduled social activities
___ Needs escort or transportation to activities
___ Enroll in Adult Day Care programs
___ Help with hobbies
___ May need books on tape if reading is difficult
___ May enjoy being read to
___ Need help with computer activities
___ Join senior center and activities
___ Participate in community meals at senior center
___ Arrange for in-home senior companion visits
___ Plan an exercise program, especially with others

Daily Tasks and Housekeeping:

The care of elderly may also require a new approach to handling everyday tasks. Watch for signs of problems and assist your loved one in developing a system. Providing elderly help in these areas can give immediate relief. Remember to ask – Who, What, When, How.

___ Laundry piles up – needs help
___ Clothing needs mending
___ Help cleaning house
___ Remove trash
___ Getting mail from mailbox
___ Reading mail
___ Paying bills
___ Pest control
___ Regulating temperature of home
___ Opening and closing windows for fresh air
___ Eliminating odors in home
___ Sorting and eliminating unnecessary junk
___ Sorting old paperwork
___ Downsizing and simplifying possessions

Be sure to also read:

Care For Elderly In Home – Tips and Ideas — Care for elderly in home takes a lot of planning, whether a loved one is staying in their own home or moving in with someone else (perhaps you). Here are some great tips and ideas to consider, including having some fun!

to Care of Elderly

Finding meaningful dementia activities can be a challenge.
Especially if it is a new venture for you when caring for family or residents. We have a family member with Lewy Body Dementia and have found
it can be an ongoing challenge. So look over this page and see what is a fit for you. The ideas on this page are meant for those with early or middle stage dementia.

We include links to suitable activities within our web site (to further organize our material for you) and also offer new ideas right here. Many are great to do with family, visitors, kids; or to give as gifts to those visiting.

Using these Activities

The way you use these activities will depend on if you’re working with just one family member, a small group of two or three, or a larger group in memory care (and of course not all may participate).

Many times dementia activities are simply demonstrated by the caregiver or director, with the resident(s) watching, choosing items, or talking. Sometimes you may make the activity samples up ahead of time, and just leave out a few details so participants can choose ways to finish them off.

So these activities are basic guidelines explained here – you can decide how you will present them.

Things May Vary Daily

(If you’ve been working with dementia residents for awhile, you’ll likely know the following explanatory material already). As you may know if you are working with a group, various residents will be at various ability levels – and what they can or want to do and for how long, can vary from day to day.

Activities should not only be meaningful, but ideally something they used to be interested in. The more reminiscing that can happen, the more opportunity to keep the memory active for as long as possible.

It is also important to be in the resident’s moment as much as possible – he or she may suddenly start talking about something unrelated, but meaningful to them at the time. I had to be aware of this with my Dad every day.

It does take continual observing, modifying, adjusting… and relaxing to have fun! Dementia activities should be done at a slower more patient pace, for shorter time allotments, along with lots of praise and encouragement.

The activities we provide here may need to be modified to suit your particular memory care needs. (And remember, children who visit grandparents with memory loss, may enjoy participating in some of these dementia activities as well).

The Usual Activities…

Most of us are familiar with the usual dementia activities…
Baking cookies or making popcorn, simple gardening like planting and weeding, folding laundry, sorting items, stringing things, looking at photographs, taking walks, baby visits, pet visits, etc.

So we won’t go into those here, but will instead discuss many others.

Here are our additional ideas, many with links to our other web pages for complete details. And if you are able to present or do crafts, be sure to visit our main craft page at Easy Craft Ideas.

Our Dementia Activities

Food Activities

Dementia activities involving food are really popular. Besides those that are baked making memorable aromas, it seems chocolate is another favorite. Here are a few fun food projects – they’re also a hit to do with children.

No-bake chocolate covered chow mein noodle cookies – Chocolate is a favorite treat and often associated with fun memories. Warm up a container of dipping chocolate in the microwave according to instructions. Make sure you heat it in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, to eliminate burning.

Transfer the melted chocolate to a larger mixing bowl (it has more room). Stir in about 2 cups of chow mein noodles, mixing gently but well. You can also add in a little coconut, if you like that.

Put spoonfuls of the mixture onto a platter that’s been covered with waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least a half an hour, until firm. Take the out of the fridge about 15 minutes before eating, or they may be hard to bite.

Bread making — This is a longer-term project, because of the baking time. So that is something to factor into the presentation of your activity. We all love the smell of home-baked bread!. So make it the easy way with a bread machine. This is one kitchen gadget I recommend having, if it is in your budget.

Otherwise, if you work at a care center, see if you can get a donation or do a little fund raising. Automatic bread makers process everything for you: mixing, kneading, baking, so you can come back later – and it’s done! They are also pre-programmable, and usually have automatic shut-off safety features.

Cookie cutter mini-pancakes — Some dementia activities are especially fun to do with kids, family or friends. For this one, you will need a pancake griddle and metal cookie cutters to pour the batter into, such as stars, hearts, Christmas trees, flowers, bells, Mickey Mouse, etc. Keep the cookie cutter around the batter until the shape sets. When done, people can choose decorations:  raisins, apple slices, coconut, candies, nuts, even a little whipped cream. Great for a brunch or special birthday breakfast too.

Chocolate spoons — Making chocolate spoons is another of the favorite dementia activities and ideal to do with kids. You can also use them for parties or gifts to give away. Not to mention, what a great spoon for stirring in a cup of coffee or coco! I prefer to use a microwavable tub of chocolate because it is the easiest and fastest method.

Microwave the chocolate according to the instructions. Dip a spoon into the melted chocolate and twirl it around so both sides get coated. Put it on the wax paper to harden, then dip it again. While the chocolate is still soft, dip them in sprinkles or candies; or sprinkle them by hand on to the top. Participants could choose which sprinkles or other candies to use to decorate.

Chocolate covered strawberries – The very easiest way to make chocolate covered strawberries is, again, by using the ready-made microwavable dipping chocolate. And they’re healthy! They can be used for many holiday occasions too, and fun to do in groups or one-on-one. See full instructions at: Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries.

Chocolate dipped pretzels – This is a similar process as with making chocolate covered strawberries, in which you use also the microwaveable chocolate.

(You can see that I use for many of these dementia activities). I find it best to use the jumbo pretzels sticks for this project. Get more ideas for making them and how to choose decorating, at: Creative, Easy Dipping Chocolate.

Homemade pretzels – Homemade pretzels can be either slightly salty or sweet. And you can also make various, fun shapes for different occasions, such as hearts, circles, spirals, etc. The easiest way is to use refrigerated pizza dough. Then sprinkle the tops with a little sweetener or salt. Some people like raisins pressed in. Just follow the directions on the dough package and cut or roll the dough into cylinders, then shape them. And they’re also really good to use for the dipping chocolate project too!

Homemade ice cream, the easy way -– Making homemade ice cream is very easy these days, because there are excellent electric automatic ice cream makers out there, with no ice or salt needed – and very little effort. Again, this project involves a longer time element. With the right recipes, ice cream can be a healthy dessert for almost anyone. And ice cream is sure to bring back good memories. See more details and our yummy family ice cream recipes at: How To Make Ice Cream The Easy Way.

Strawberry bouquet – These elegant strawberry bouquets are satisfying to make, and to give (as well as eat, of course). We have a super simple way to frost the tops of strawberries and include candy in the bouquet too. See more at: Strawberry Bouquets.

Strawberry fruit tower — Strawberries are very versatile for various dementia activities using fruit, and high in nutrition as well.

Participants can choose to decorate this easy kabob tower with various kinds of fruit and gumdrop colors. And for lots of holidays and parties – just change out the other fruits, colors, and candies. See our page at: Strawberry Apple Fruit Kabob.

General Dementia Activities

These various general dementia activities can easily be modified to suit your group or loved one, depending on ability level.

Windowsill gardens — Even for those who weren’t into gardening, windowsill gardens are fun dementia activities to do as a group or individually. A sunny windowsill is best. Besides watching a window garden grow, weeding and picking are other activities that can be done.

Gardens that grow something you can eat are very popular. Edible window gardens usually consist of herbs such as dill, basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, and chives. Use a potting mix rather than soil; it can carry disease. Be sure to get fertilizer made for edible plants, using it about once a month.

You could utilize a variety of pots and containers for your windowsill gardens, but they should be at least 6 inches deep. You don’t need to water herbs very often; just keep the soil barely moist so roots do not get soggy. Cut and use your edibles often. They’ll get fuller as they are clipped.

Other interesting plants to grow and eat in a windowsill garden are strawberries, tomatoes and sunflowers. See your garden center for specific instructions if you have questions. Or simply get a kit – there are many available. And of course when you “harvest” from your window garden, you can use the pickings in any cooking or snack projects.

Windowsill flower gardens also make lovely dementia activities, and add a boost of color and fragrance.

Grow an amaryllis flower — Amaryllis flowers are excellent for dementia activities – they are large, bright, and amazing to watch grow. An amaryllis bulb kit is very inexpensive, usually $12 or less. 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 a fabulous gardening type activity – they grow really fast. You can literally see and measure their progress with a ruler daily – about an inch per day once they get going. Are you familiar with the amaryllis? They are tall and stately flowers with spectacular large blooms, several to a stalk. Just follow the directions on the box.

Arranging flowers – This can also be coupled with an outing to a garden in which flowers can be picked. Get a variety of colors and sizes of flowers, along with foliage and ferns. Pussy willows, cattails, and baby’s breath are also nice additions. Then arrange them in an attractive, non-breakable vase.

Make a creative planter – If you’re growing little mini gardens or just want to have some live plants around, consider putting them in a really creative planter…

Like an old-fashioned pail, a bright rain boot, an upside down hat, or an old fancy purse. If you line up several interesting planters, with their plants, they make a lively display. And residents can weed, prune and water them too. See more details and pictures at: Creative Planter Ideas.

Pressed flowers — This is a good way to incorporate any flowers that you may be growing into other dementia activities. Drying flowers is done over a period of time, however, so keep that in mind with your participants, their memories, and attention spans.

You can either pick fresh flowers from a field trip, a community garden or your windowsill garden. First remove wilted petals and leaves. Flowers and leaves should lay flat and not overlap, if possible. Get a heavy book and line some pages with 2 or 3 sheets of paper for protection. Paper towels will not work for this, because they’ll disintegrate. Lay the flowers carefully out on the paper, and cover them with another couple of sheets of paper.

Close up the book and stack another couple of books on top. Or if you want to dry them faster, you can also put the book in your microwave for about 30 seconds. Repeat this process a few times, checking to see if the flowers are almost dried. Then let the book sit for at least another two weeks before opening. When the flowers are dried, they can be used in collages, in small picture frames, and decoupage, depending on what your group or loved one is able to do.

Gourd craft characters — The activities director of one of our memory care facilities used our project for one of her dementia activities, by turning funny lumpy gourds into characters with her residents (with help, of course) and they turned out really cute. See the samples we have and full instructions at: Gourd Craft Ideas – Gifts, Ghouls & Grannies.

Playing with watercolors – Art projects for dementia activities can be either simple or a little more challenging. Here’s an easy way to watercolor, even if participants have not done (or do not remember having done) much with art.

The paper can also first be taped down on all sides with masking tape or artist’s water tape, to the table to keep it from curling. First just thoroughly wet a piece of sturdy watercolor paper with a sponge, and then dab bright colors with a brush into the water, watching them spread and make patterns.

Pleasing color combinations are the cool colors of blue, green and purple, perhaps yellow too; or the warm colors of red, pink, orange, yellow. But it doesn’t really matter. This is a very loose type of painting technique that involves no “skill.” When the painting is almost dry, put a clean piece of paper or wax paper over it, and then stack a heavy book on top, to flatten the paper while it dries.

When completely dried, the paper can then be cut into tall, narrow strips to make into attractive bookmarkers to give as a gift. Then laminated or encase them in clear contact paper. You could also laminate full-sized paintings, to make into place mats.

Beaded bookworm bookmark craft — We thought this cute bookmark idea submitted by a reader would work well for dementia activities.

You make the bookworm by stringing very large beads, so it’s easy to do. Participants could choose some of the beads to use. Then give them away as gifts if you’d like. Kids will love them too. Go to this page to see full details: Bookworm Bookmark.

Modeling with clay – The feel of clay is wonderful in the hands, and some dementia patients may have had an artistic talent that clay will help them remember and maintain. Others will just like to play around with it. Try modeling simple animals, cartoony-like simple characters, a little vase in which to stick a small artificial flower, etc.

Kite flying – Meaningful dementia activities bring back old memories. And can be a great reason to go outdoors, for both men and women. You can get basic kites at a discount store or even sometimes at a dollar store. Along with flying kites, making and decorating a simple one from a kit also makes a fun activity.

Kids love to help with this one too! When you’re ready to fly, be sure to limit the length of the kite string so it’s manageable. Go outside to an area where there are not too many trees, and take turns flying the kites. They can even be attached to wheelchairs.

If this is an actual outing, bring along lemonade and cookies, or even a picnic lunch. Many of the participants may have fun stories to tell about flying kites when they were young. So kites and conversation are good for the memory too.

Gentle hand massage — A hand massage using gentle reflexology stimulates the whole system. Use a little lotion with a favorite fragrance (men and women alike). With our hand reflexology chart, it is really easy to do. This chart shows which pressure points go with which parts of the body. Pressure, of course, should be very light. See the chart and print it out from this page: A Handy Hand Reflexology Chart.

Spa time — Dementia activities for a “spa” time are calming and enjoyable. Begin with relaxing music and maybe string up some small twinkling lights. Or have a few flameless battery candles set around for ambiance. Aromatherapy is also wonderful, such as lavender (which helps calm and relax) or rose, lemon and vanilla.

Give an arm and hand massage with scented lotion. A scalp massage is excellent as well. Also popular is a foot soak in warm, scented water, followed by a gentle foot massage. Perhaps a mini pedicure, complete with toenail polish for the ladies? The activities you include in your spa time will depend on the attention span of your participants.

Manicure – This is a wonderful way to give some pampering or give help with a fun and familiar activity. A manicure complete with bright nail polish is a special treat. Some patients may be able to apply a stroke or two of nail polish themselves.

Music time – Music can be incorporated into many dementia activities. It’s not only soothing, but it also helps bring back memories by association. Some participants will just want to listen, others do a little foot tapping, humming, or even singing along. Some may like to get up and dance.

Choose music that is their favorites, such as from the ’30’s, ’40’s, or ’50’s, . And don’t forget Lawrence Welk, Perry Como and all those crooners. Church hymns can be used as well. It is also popular to have a live musician come in with a guitar or to play the piano if available. Some residents may prefer to use individual earphones while listening to music.

Games

Games will naturally need to be modified according to abilities. Some of these dementia activities will be suitable only for early stage dementia. Besides fun, games have other benefits. Several will provide a little motion and coordination exercise. Others will challenge the mind and memory. (Also see our elderly games page for further ideas you can modify as necessary). Here are a few popular ones.

Name That Tune — Musical games are always a great favorite and this game is good for both the memory and mood. Music is one of the dementia activities that can be very calming. If you’re going to play music yourself (i.e. on a piano) it’s easy to get music online at Amazon.com if you want to order it. Or visit www.lyricsdepot.com to find lyrics for your favorite songs, from any decade.

Using a music CD will work fine with this game too, but it’s even more fun to have live music. Begin by playing 3 to 5 notes of the song, then pause and let participants call out the tune if they can. Then add 3 more notes and pause, adding 3 notes each time until someone guesses. Or instead, play a few notes and let them sing what comes next.

Fill in the hymn or bible verse — Get phrases from some favorite old hymns and leave out the words. Participants and either call out the answer to fill in the phrase, or write them down. Other fill-in games can include psalms and other scriptures, and famous sayings or idioms.

Name those states and cities — Stretch those memories and combine a mental work out with fun travel stories – two dementia activities in one. You can use either a puzzle map on a table, or get a large wall map (laminated if possible) and hang it up. See how many states and/or cities can be named. And maybe someone remembers a story about having been there.

Spelling bee and math bee – This can be made into a fun game rather than a “test,” and the emphasis is in success and encouragement so participants do not feel put on the spot. Some days they will remember, and some days they won’t. Always start out easy and basic to ensure the best success at the start.

What I Loved To Do As A Child — Games can also involve fun reminiscing into childhood, and as you know, anything with remembering makes good dementia activities. For this one, each person can talk about their favorite activity or hobby when they were a child. Some questions to ask may be… Did they continue it as they grew? Why did they like it? Would they still like to do that activity today? Include whatever questions would be appropriate for your group.

Guess what’s in the sock — Guessing games are fun for dementia activities. Buy some large heavy socks, not low-rise, but the type that are worn outdoors in the winter that are thick and come at least to the calf. Put several items in the socks. If you are using this for a holiday game, items should be related to your holiday or occasion in some way. You might include a small ornament, scotch tape, a pine cone, a Hershey’s Kiss, etc. Have each person feel inside the sock and name what is in it.

Fall leaves — There are many dementia activities you can do with fall leaves. Start out by going out on a nice day around the yard, garden, grounds, or a park. Bring a book or chart on trees and leaves for the leader to reference. The leader or guide can point out the various trees and tell something about them.

For instance, maple trees can be used for maple syrup and also make very bright colors in fall; oak trees grow acorns; pines are used for Christmas trees and wreathes, etc.

Participants can gather some brightly colored leaves of different kinds, so bring a bag or two. When you get back, you can then play a memory game. Have the leader hold up various leaf shapes and see if participants can remember what trees they were from. And perhaps something about those trees.

Also try preserving leaves the old-fashioned way can create more dementia activities. Participants will need help with this because it involves ironing, and some may mostly just watch, depending on your group and if in a facility. Spread down newspapers. Then place leaves between 2 sheets of wax paper.

Cover with newspapers, and iron (with assistance of course) until the leaves are coated with wax. The newspapers absorb the extra wax. Let the leaves cool off, then remove them from the newspapers.

Preserved leaves can then be used for decoupage projects, centerpieces, making garlands, or pressing between two sheets of clear contact paper to make place mats. Whatever crafts your group can participate in.

Cup and ball game – You can buy the old-fashioned wooden cup with a ball attached on a cord. One version is to see who can get the ball into the cup the most times in a given time frame. This is a great game for those with limited mobility and for those in wheelchairs.

Holiday toss – Have a fun game of “toss the hat”. You can use this game for many occasions – just switch out the type of hat. For instance, fill a Santa’s hat (or Uncle Sam’s hat for the 4th of July) with some candy or other small items. Then try to toss the hat around without the items falling out. This tossing game can also be done with marshmallows, and you can use any kind of container besides a hat.

Balloon volleyball – This is a great activity for any group, and is also fun for those with dementia. Simply sit in a circle and hit, tap, or kick the balloon from one person to the next. This is also a little stretching exercise, with lots of laughs.

Roll the ball – For this game you will need a long table, or a couple tables pushed together. Then have participants sit around the table with a brightly colored ball. Then one person to roll the ball to another person, and then to another, keeping the ball rolling. This is very relaxing, and some residents will play it for quite a long time.

Lawn or patio bowling – This game is best done on a flat surface or really short grass so it’s a great outdoor game. Simply use a plastic bowling set that is set up. You can score in the traditional manner if you choose to do scoring. Because the pins and balls are so light weight, it is easy to manage even by wheelchair participants.

Outings

For those who are able to go on outings, we do have a special page about field trip activities for elderly. Some of them may be suitable for you. Our family member with Lewy Body Dementia is still able to go on many of them.

Here is a quick summary of some others:

Berry Picking — Picking, sorting, and washing fruits make good dementia activities. This is a mildly active excursion, and you can make it as short as you’d like. Participants may remember berry picking days from their past. There may be a berry picking farm nearby for just such a trip, as there is near me. And you have a delicious end result!

Take the berries back with you and have a get-together, eating them or making a dessert. If you pick strawberries, we have a very simple way to make chocolate covered strawberries, (see link above in the Food Activities section) which can also be done outdoors.

Visit an apple orchard — Many communities have commercial orchards where you can pick your own apples and even go on a hay ride or cart ride to the picking areas. Plus they often have a little cafe or shop to buy and eat delicious homemade apple treats. But then again, you may want to make your own treats! Apple crafts are always popular too and can often be done (or watched) outside.

Boat rides – Since dementia activities involving outings should be kept more quiet and simple, a calming boat ride is wonderful. The water makes a great backdrop. Do you, or does anyone in your church or organization have a pontoon boat? If they are willing to assist for an afternoon, this is an excellent way of boating. Pontoons can also be rented. With a proper plank, even those in wheelchairs can access this type of boat. It should ideally have a covering.

But there are also mini yachts, ferries, and a variety of motor boats too, large enough for easy and safe access, and most can be rented. Be sure everyone has appropriate clothing, plus sunglasses and sunscreen. Be sure beverages or water bottles are available, and possibly snacks.

Fishing – So many seniors enjoy fishing, and perhaps were even skilled at it. And they may remember fishing stories to share too. Whether on a pier, pontoon boat, fishing boat, or from shore, this is a relaxing way to get outdoors. Bring along some food and drink. And make sure there is someone who can handle the gear, hooks, and fish to give a helping hand.

Botanical garden or conservatory – Anything with plants and gardening are always included in our dementia activities, because they were often favorites from the past. Strolling through a garden is also great exercise. If your town does not have its own public garden, consider a trip to a nearby place that does. Some destinations also have a restaurant, even a zoo. One near me includes a petting zoo and is as popular with adults as it is with kids.

Again, all field trips and outings will depend on your group.

These are just a few of the ideas we are sharing for dementia activities. Be sure to visit other pages (see links below) for more meaningful ideas that you can modify to suit your loved one or group.

And you might like to take a pair of binoculars with you for added interest!

Check these for more possible dementia activities:

Senior Activity Ideas — A comprehensive variety of General suggestions that may give you further ideas for dementia activities.

Outdoor Elderly Activities — Many outdoor ideas for different seasons. Some can be brought indoors too. So if you’re looking for dementia activities for the outdoors, check these.

to Elderly Activities

Fun and effective elderly stress activities are an important part of overall senior care. And can help give relief and distraction from burdens that befall the aging. As caregiver, I did several of these with my own father, in his late 90s, and they certainly did help take his mind off his worries.

Dad was very patient, despite being almost blind and deaf, and having difficulty socializing.  I could always tell when he had concerns. Instead being his normal cheerful self, he would blurt out, “It’s hell getting old!” I had to come up with lots of different ways to help him.

NOTE:  Some seniors are introverts and need special and/or gentle urging to participate in some elderly stress activities. Others may have become lethargic and will need a bit of urging. Effective elderly stress activities involve several factors – physical, emotional, creative, mental, and spiritual needs.

It’s always important to consult the medical professional as needed, if there is a question about any stress relief activities.

And you may find some of these ideas are great for caregivers too, as care of elderly can sometimes be overwhelming.

Keeping these factors in mind, this page will summarize some effective ideas (and not just squeezing rubbery stress balls, which come in such shapes as cupcakes, golf balls, and cartoon faces). Or working on puzzles. We’ll also link you to other pages for more details.

TLC and Contact With Others

First, we’ll start with some typical stress busters. I found that any types of elderly stress activities that provide a little TLC (and especially physical contact) were very enjoyable for Dad.

First, here are the usual…

*  Holding and playing with great-grandkids.

*  Petting a pet that a friend or family member brought over.

*  Dad always smiled when I helped him shave (with an electric shaver). It made him feel pampered.

*  Foot and hand care – a local nurse in town makes home visits that includes a foot soak, trimming toenails and fingernails, and a foot and hand massage. Dad loved it!

*  An easy hand reflexology treatment – I’ve included a basic hand reflexology chart on that page. Just about anyone can do it.

*  His routine haircut. Just something as basic as that helped him de-stress.

*  We also did regular deep breathing together. When you count while doing this, it takes more focus, so you don’t think about something else.  Count for 4 seconds while breathing in, holding breath, breathing out, holding breath. Depending on a person’s health, you may need to consult a medical professional first.

Fun and Games

Games and laughter, of course, help with stress. We do have a thorough page about elderly games. But in addition to that, here are a few more fun elderly stress activities.

*  Desktop punching ball – you can turning punching into a small game!

*  Creating, maintaining or watching an aquarium. Retirement campuses sometimes have these, and so-called aquarium therapy is a known stress reliever. Just sitting and watching one is meditative and calming and can reduce blood pressure and pulse rate. Purdue University did a study with aquariums and Alzheimer patients, showing that patients became more alert and quiet.

*  Desk or table-top games –  golf putting game, bowling, magnetic dart board, mini pool table, or “flick” hockey. (These are games with small objects, so would work only for those with good eye and finger dexterity.)

*  Magnetic sculptures involve different magnetic metal shapes, sometimes in various colors, that can be stacked together in endless creative ways. Again, some of these may include small pieces, although they do come in various sizes.

*  Working with the earth, plants and flowers are excellent elderly stress activities –- raised or potted gardens are perfect. Especially if it’s something you can eat later, like tomatoes or strawberries. There’s something about feeling one’s hands in the earth that is so therapeutic. Or the grass under one’s feet. Placing feet in a water feature such as a pool or stream also feels great.

*  Growing a bonsai tree – you can get them in kits with instructions. This project takes some care (and perhaps a little help), so offers a fascintating ongoing activity.

Tactile Activities

These types of elderly stress activities can be done while listening to music, chatting, or even watching a good movie on TV. Many engage several senses and distract the mind.

*  Running sand through the fingers. Potted plants and flowers can be spaced apart in a box of sand. When people come to tend to the plants, weed them, snip off dead leaves and blooms, they also love to run their fingers in the sand. Sometimes flowers that have fallen off their stems are laid in the sand to decorate.

*  Slowly swishing hands in water or bubbles.

*  Feeling something soft like plush velvet or wrapping up in fluffy fleece or soft angora.

*  Working with clay, especially if it will be fired to complete a satisfactory project.

*  Sanding wood (with no slivers), feeling it get smoother and smoother is therapeutic. This is a great one for those who liked to work with their hands, build things, and use tools. I actually used to love doing this with Dad when I was a child. Because this activity can produce sawdust, a mask is advised.

*  Polishing or oiling wood until it gleams is a favorite “old-time” elderly stress activity for some.

*  Others like to polish silverware until it shines.

*  My grandma used to love to shell peas, feeling the little round peas slide through her fingers. She would do bowls of them. She also used to enjoy sitting at the table chopping vegetables and listening to music or chatting.

*  Knitting or crocheting may be someone’s favorite hobby, yet they just don’t feel like doing it. (Have you ever felt like that?) But doing a project for someone else, like joining a group that makes prayer shawls, might get them out of a slump.

 *  Likewise, joining a quilting group for a cause can be relaxing because of the goal and camaraderie too.

*  Rug hooking is another tactile activity that is easy, yet involves just enough concentration to distract from stress. There are loads of kits available in craft stores.

*  How about good ole washing dishes with plenty of bubbles in the sink. Many folks find this to be another pleasant and nostalgic activity. My grandmother used to love to wash dishes. It allowed her to do something with her hands and daydream at the same time. Now and then I also find it relaxing. (And in fact, I actually enjoy doing housework when I need to de-stress. It’s good physical activity and keeps me from thinking too much).

*  Folding laundry was one of Dad’s favorite tasks to help me with. He loved the fresh smell, the feel of the fabric, and took his time folding each piece very carefully.

*  Finger painting is not just for kids! (But it certainly be done along with them). It’s also one of the simple yet creative elderly stress activities – in fact, some quite sophisticated art work can be made. Feeling soft, flowing paint between the fingers and watching trails of color slide across a piece of paper makes a really fun project. Colors also can be blended together while painting to make new colors. This is especially fun for those with no “artistic ability” because there is no such thing as good or bad or making a mistake – just fun. 

Be sure to cover the table with newspaper and wear a cover-up!. Either finger paint or poster paint can be used, adding a little water to the painting as needed, so it moves well on the paper. Paint can be put into muffin tins. We used to paint on butcher paper or freezer paper as kids.

When dry, linear designs and details can be added with colored markers if desired. Try hanging the finished product(s) all together mural style. Or flatten under books, then laminate and used as place mats; perhaps laminate and cut into strips for bookmarks.

Of course, there are many other arts and craft ideas that are great elderly stress activities. Take a look at our section for Easy Craft Ideas.

More Miscellaneous

Here are a few more random stress soothers…

*  Aromatherapy. Various scents (using real essential oils when possible) do calm the nerves, such as lavender, rose, lemon, peppermint, jasmine, sage, and vanilla. Dad and I enjoyed having a tray with a variety of scents and would take turns inhaling the various fragrances, sometimes guessing what they were, talking about them, and about what memories came to mind from them.

Other elderly stress activities involving aroma would be scented candles (which do come flameless – I have a lovely one in vanilla); diffusers; hand, neck and/or shoulder massage with scented oils; taking a warm bath with scented oils or bubble bath; making a lavender pillow or potpourri.

*  Music and mood. I’m sure you’re aware that certain kinds of music are real stress releasers. But we’ve found some very interesting information about this topic, so do check out our page on Health, Music and Mood.

*  Good old times.  Looking through photo albums and talking about good old times and having a few laughs. (However, depending on the person and situation of course, this can sometimes backfire and cause sadness or distress instead).

*  A Japanese zen sand garden is a lovely and soothing tabletop pastime. You can purchase one in a kit or make one yourself. It usually includes a shallow wooden box filled with a thick layer of fine sand, some smooth pebbles of various sizes that can be rearranged over and over, and a small rake with which to created designs in the sand. Flowers to lay upon the sand design is another add-on option. This provides lots of hand-eye activity and is very calming.

*  Calming crystals. Sometimes a person just feels like sitting around and not doing anything in particular. There are some elderly stress activities that are really good for this. For instance, many years ago one of my sons started giving me crystal snowflake ornaments for Christmas. (But any kind of a faceted crystal-like or glass object will do). They are so beautiful I hang them in my window off-season and watch the sun glint and blaze through the facets, changing colors and also make rainbow patterns on the wall. It’s a nice distraction, is meditational and calms the spirit.

*  Inexpensive “Shopping Therapy” is a favorite pastime for many, and a reason to get out. For those on a budget, browsing at a thrift store, flea market or a few garage sales will do the trick. I like to find something to bring home and turn into a project – making  picture frame crafts, painting on glass (see our page on how to paint glass), doing something seasonal, or making a gift for someone. Finding ways to give to others is often a sure-fire way to dissolve one’s stress. 

*  Relaxation room.  Perhaps you can set up a little room or part of a room with a window and some sunshine, filled with a few uplifting things like a couple very comfy chairs, footstools, colorful coffee table books to browse through, plants, flowers, hanging crystals, a table-top zen garden, a puzzle, a small water element or fountain, even a bird cage if possible.

*  “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is a great book by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.  Sometimes it is true that stress can be self-created. Ever heard of this book series? (And the author thinks just about everything is small stuff when we think big-picture). He truly teaches how to relax. I have a couple of the books on hand and pull them out from time to time as needed. They really help regain perspective. These are also nice books to read to someone – I read one to my Dad since he is unable to see, and he loved it. (Reading to someone is one of our most relaxing elderly stress activities).

Dr. Carlson believes that if we do things for others and take a little attention off of ourselves, we receive more kindness back too, which helps melt stress away. Even saying a few kind words to another, assisting someone with a simple task, giving a compliment, helps them (and us) feel better just about instantly.

Speaking of helping others, if you’re looking for volunteer ideas to enhance your life, be sure to click the link to visit our page.

Or perhaps you’re interested in finding a hobby that will add a little pizzazz to life.  A hobby (particularly one that can bring in a little extra money) is an excellent way to redirect the mind.

An important part of our elderly health care is to find ways to help relieve the ongoing burdens that cause stress. We have dozens of pages on our web site with helpful hints and more elderly stress activities. Here are a few…

How To Get Happy; Top Hints – When we feel overwhelmed and stressed out we might wonder if we’ll ever get back to being happy again. We’ve discovered lots of expert advice (and some of our own) to share.
Exercise for Seniors – And its links to other pages about t’ai chi for seniors, yoga, and Spring Forest Qigong (one of my favorites). Swimming and walking, as you probably know, are two top, easy ways to exercise. We all know that exercise is one of the best elderly stress activities there is.
Senior Activity Ideas – There are so many more ideas on our web site that can serve as elderly stress activities, so do check out this section too.


to Elderly Health Care