How to Encourage Engagement in Senior Activities – and Ideas to Get You Started
The pandemic has caused us all to rethink how we spend our days. For seniors, the isolation required for safety reasons has had detrimental effects on physical and emotional wellness. It’s more important now than ever before to encourage engagement in meaningful and fun senior activities. Here’s why.
Benefits of Senior Activities
Engagement in senior activities is in direct correlation to quality of life. It’s a way of keeping seniors involved in the joy of an active lifestyle and aging gracefully. The CDC reports that, “For older adults, staying engaged in enjoyable activities is associated with better physical and mental health.” Learning new activities may provide the added benefit of protecting the brain against memory loss and cognitive decline.
Where to Begin?
The first step to motivate and encourage a reluctant senior to become more engaged is to accurately assess his or her intellectual and physical abilities and interests – past and present. This ensures the activities you suggest will be appropriate, enjoyable, and safe. It’s always a good idea to speak with the senior’s doctor as well for recommendations and any restrictions to keep in mind.
With that information in hand, all that’s needed is a little ingenuity! Here are some suggestions for both intellectual and physical engagement to help spark some ideas.
Based on the senior’s cognitive abilities and limitations, conversations and reminiscing are wonderful ways to encourage engagement. We recommend leaving out current event discussions related to politics, religion, or any other controversial topics. Appropriate conversation starters include:
- Remind me, what did you do for a living? Tell me about your work.
- What was your favorite vacation of all? What did you like most about it?
- Did you have a best friend growing up? What kinds of things did you enjoy doing together?
Look through photos and old magazines together. Pull out some tangible reminders of the person’s past, such as a wedding veil or dress, toolbox, or an accounting ledger. These types of items often spark memories and allow for a deeper level of engagement.
Music is also a wonderful way to engage a senior. Play some of the senior’s favorite songs and encourage singing along and sharing what comes to his or her mind when hearing them.
Experiment with different puzzles, games, reading material, and storytelling. If something isn’t effective on one day, it may hold more interest at a later time.
Physically engaging activities will vary based on the senior’s circumstances. Even wheelchair and bed bound seniors can benefit from an appropriate degree of physical movement.
If the senior is mobile, taking a walk in the neighborhood or going for an outing together are often enjoyable. You can also try dancing, exercise programs like yoga or tai chi, and one of our favorites: Wii games, such as bowling and golf. Pay careful attention to the senior’s balance to prevent a fall if choosing activities that involve getting out of a chair, as well as any other health concerns – such as breathing problems. Again, it’s important to get the doctor’s approval before trying anything new.
Those with limited mobility can often participate in chair exercises or other stretching/strengthening types of activities to build muscles and improve blood flow and circulation.
Engagement in both physical and intellectual activities is vital to a senior’s health and wellbeing. Be creative, follow the senior’s interests and ability level, and most of all, have fun!
Right at Home of Sarasota’s experts in respite care can perform an assessment and suggest further ideas to engage seniors. Contact us any time to request your free in-home (or phone-based) evaluation and learn more about how our home care services can help.