There are a host of healthy and entertaining activities to help seniors stay engaged and positive. All of them can be done at home or online ensuring everyone’s health and safety.
If exercise isn’t already a part of the daily routine, now is the time to incorporate it. No other activity is likely to provide as much physical, mental and emotional well-being. The old adage “healthy body, healthy mind” still rings true. As we age, it’s even more important to stay limber and mobile and keep our muscles from atrophying. As we age and wish to remain at home, we need to maintain our physical strength.
- Walking. If weather permits, this can be as easy as a walk around the block or getting to a park and strolling the wooded, landscaped paths, breathing the fresh air, and keeping motor skills toned. For a bit more adventure, pick up a local hiking guide and explore further!
- Chair Yoga. There are books as well as online classes for guidance through these gentle stretching, breathing and balance moves. There are many easy chair yoga exercises for seniors that are perfect for getting some movement in at home. Namaste!
- Online stretching & exercise classes. Whether it’s cardio, abs, or simply stretching, there are innumerable free, online classes to be found.
While chess and checkers, mahjong, Bridge, and other brain games for seniors are great entertainment and help keep the mind finely tuned, they do require at least one other person. The following are great cognitive exercises to do alone.
- Crossword puzzles
- Sudoku & Jumbles
- Sites such as Lumosity and Brainhq have even more cognitive brain training games to challenge memory and attention
What better escape than to lose yourself in a good book? It’s also great for brain health. Did you know that reading may promote longevity? Make it a goal to try and read one book a week. There are also audio books if you prefer to listen.
- After reading a book, write a short “book report” and share it with family & friends
- Start or sign-up for an online/virtual book club group. Many libraries and local bookstores offer such, as do senior programs.
There are endless varieties of crafts for seniors to choose from whether it’s needlepoint or woodworking, scrapbooking, or knitting. Maybe you have a favorite craft like decoupage that you could resurrect? Or, learn a new craft! Pick-up a copy of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and you won’t be at a loss for craft projects. There are dozens of DIY ideas. (Just make sure you have a glue gun!) Some simple and fun craft projects include:
- Making your own greeting cards
- A family photo collage/album
- Creating holiday ornaments & décor
- Stringing beads and making jewelry
- Fill a recipe box or book with all your family favorites
Whether you have a large backyard or just a porch, patio or deck, maybe just an indoor area – you can cultivate a garden. Container gardening is trending these days. You don’t need a lot of space. Whether you start from seeds or plants, gardening for seniors is great therapy and is so very satisfying because you can watch your handiwork thrive and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- Grow your own vegetables
- Cultivate an herb garden on a kitchen window sill
- Plant beautiful flowers & create lovely floral arrangements
- Nurture a green indoor houseplant haven
- Create a terrarium
If not now, when? Don’t think too hard about it. Just put pen on paper. Just write. As the great author Annie Lamott says about writing “It’s bird by bird…” Or word by word. Let your stream of consciousness flow. Write about what you know; write what you see.
- Journaling. Keep a daily journal. This can help keep you in the present and thankful for the little things in each day.
- Memoir. Writing a memoir is one of the most precious gifts you can give your loved ones. You may be surprised at how interesting your life and your experiences are to others. The times in which you lived may be very different from today. Time and distance provide great perspective and make for many insights that can be shared.
These are a great indoor distraction and good eye-brain exercise. The 1000-piece puzzles can take days to complete and are quite addictive! For seniors starting out, a 500 or even 250 piece puzzle might be more up their alley. You can choose piece counts and designs that are the right challenge-level for their interests and abilities. Choose a picture of their favorite place to travel, type of animal, or activity. It can be a great way to spark conversation too!
If circumstances allow, consider adopting a pet. A feline or canine companion will provide hours of joy and solace, and the benefits of pets for seniors is quite compelling. A house pet also requires care and feeding which makes for daily tasks and responsibilities that can help us stay alert and feel needed. I’m guessing you’ll never feel lonely!
- Most communities have a Humane Society with lots of pets looking for homes. These organizations carefully vet animals and homes to match people with the best pets.
- I suggest smaller-sized, older dogs (puppies are a LOT of work!)
- Walking a dog every day is great exercise and will ensure you get out and about, but if that isn’t an option, adopt a cat!
Online classes, lectures, programs.
I’m not talking about TV, although there is a bevy of good educational programming available these days. Log-on via your computer, laptop, or even your phone and enjoy the vast array of free programming that is available. Enrich your mind while being entertained.
- Travel programs. Travel around the world, visiting faraway cultures, sights, and sounds all in the comfort of your own home!
- Nature programs. Get up close and personal with creatures and regions you would not otherwise see.
- Lecture series. There are always organizations and universities offering provocative and informative speakers.
- Author book talks. Most local bookstores host author events online.
- Music programs. Opera, symphony and ballet companies, jazz centers, and other music venues offer repeat performances online that you can savor with a glass of wine in your own living room.
Drawing or painting.
Invest in a few art supplies: watercolors, pastels, acrylic paint, paper, canvas, charcoal pencils, and let the creativity flow. Don’t worry about being a Van Gogh; paint for yourself not for others. Do what pleases you whether it’s abstract or realistic, landscape, still life, or portrait. Art is a great expressive exercise that can be all absorbing.
- If you need ideas for what to paint, clip pictures from magazines for inspiration, even copy the work of existing artists that you can find in art books or online.
- There are many “adult” coloring books to choose from these days that often come with colored pencils or paints. Not so simple as the old paint by number, but the same idea.
Regardless of the season and weather, or circumstances that require a more sedentary, solitary and less social lifestyle (like a global pandemic!), there are plenty of activities to keep seniors engaged and ensure ongoing quality of life.