When you are considering a senior living facility or community for your loved one, you want to make sure that all their needs will be met. This doesn’t end with providing for their basic care; you will also want them to engage in the types of activities that lead to a happy, healthy, and productive life. Senior activities are essential for both physical and mental well-being. Here we will discuss various activities for older people at home or in assisted living.
Exercise and Fitness for Seniors
Staying active and getting appropriate exercise is key to your senior loved one’s health and happiness. While not all activities are well-suited for all older adults, yoga, biking, swimming, and dancing are three of the best senior activities. Each of these activities has benefits that exceed physical exercise, elevating the mind, body, and spirit.
We know that yoga is excellent for the mind and body. It is a low-impact method of stretching muscles and connective tissue while strengthening joints and improving range of motion. However, the best part of yoga for older adults is perhaps the practice of discipline and mindfulness.
The Yoga Empowers Seniors Study found that yoga was one of the best ways to improve physical function in seniors while impacting mood and positive thoughts. Yoga and similar practices like Tai Chi have been utilized by older people in Eastern cultures to achieve longevity and health for thousands of years.
Cycling is a relatively low-impact activity that can be done indoors for exercise or outdoors for added relaxation and enjoyment. Many assisted living centers to take their most active seniors on group bike tours of nearby towns and parks.
This is a wonderful way to encourage your loved one to enjoy some fresh air and fellowship while seeing the local sights. Biking is also a great way to spend family time with your senior. Bring your kid’s bikes and let your loved one lead the way.
Autumn is the best time to go for a ride. Not only will your senior see the lovely seasonal colors, but the pollen count is lower during the cooler months. Older riders tend to average between 8 and 12 miles per hour. However, speed or skill may vary rider to rider. Remember to encourage your senior to ride at their own pace.
Swimming is a terrific activity for seniors. Whether indoors or outside, swimming provides a low-impact exercise that gets the heart pumping, stretches the muscles, and improves range of motion, without causing a painful impact on knees, elbows, and hips. This makes swimming the perfect activity for seniors who have arthritis, those who have had joint replacement surgery, and is even used as therapy for those recovering from a stroke.
For some quick tips and helpful advice on the best way to use the pool as an exercise tool for seniors check out this informative video.
The following video shows a few water workouts to try:
A recent study looked at the effects regular dancing had on a group of Latinos, aged 55 and over. The study, conducted by the University of Illinois Departments of Kinesiology and Nutrition found that participants taking dance classes improved their physical conditioning including, agility, speed, and range of motion, in ways their peers —not taking dance, did not experience.
There is also research that indicates dancing releases certain hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline, which make us naturally feel more happy and energetic. If dancing is something that interests your senior, encourage them to find their groove. Dancing is certainly one of the most fun and healthful senior citizen center activities.
Enjoy the Outdoors
The great American essayist John Burroughs once wrote, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed. And to have my senses put right once more.” Whether you are looking for a senior living center that will encourage outdoor activities or you are just planning an outdoor activity with an older adult, boating, fishing, and hiking are all excellent options to consider.
Older adults with limited mobility may think boating isn’t an option. However, if you want to set out on a boating adventure, the main challenge will be finding an appropriate vessel. After that, it’s smooth sailing. If your senior is wheelchair bound but able to make the transfer to a boat, they may sit in a regular seat with a lap belt for support.
Many newer boats have flat front decks which may help with the transition. Wheelchair users, though, may feel most comfortable aboard a pontoon boat where they can stay in their wheelchair while on the water.
If you don’t have access to an appropriate boat and just want a few hours of fishing, consider taking your senior to a public access pier. These are required by law to be ADA compliant. Be sure to have appropriate safety equipment such as life vests and floatation devices.
Fishing is a favorite pastime for many seniors. It is the perfect activity for quiet reflexion and even encourages a competitive spirit. Recent studies have found that fishing releases hormones called endorphins into the body which may help seniors cope with chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. Many senior living centers have ponds located onsite that allow fishing. Fishing trips can also be a fun family excursion.
When you are shopping for fishing gear for your senior, make sure to keep any physical limitations in mind. Pick a fishing spot with lots of room for sideways casting techniques to reduce the likelihood of shoulder pain or injury. If your senior is disabled, choose a rod and reel that is easy to cast. According to DisabledSportUsa.org, there are many ways to make fishing accessible to everyone, no matter their capabilities.
Walking and Hiking
Many seniors enjoy walking and hiking. In fact, many senior living communities offer hiking clubs featuring regular excursions to local trails. We know that walking is one of the best senior activities. Studies have found that walking briskly can lower your risk for several chronic health conditions such as:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- heart disease
The best part of hiking and walking is that it requires no special skills or abilities. It can be accomplished at any pace. It is important that your senior find an approach that they enjoy, whether your senior is hiking in a group, with a club, or simply taking a stroll each evening for some alone time.
Walking is a terrific activity that your entire family can enjoy alongside older adults. Plan a regularly scheduled hike each afternoon, and everyone will reap the well-known benefits of walking.
Leisure Activities for Senior Centers
Not all activities for seniors need to be a form of exercise. There are many enjoyable recreational activities suited for seniors as well. Games that encourage strategy, skill, and recall are the most helpful.
Card games like Bridge, or even Poker, keep the mind sharp and provide opportunities for social interaction, which is important for seniors who often struggle with feelings of isolation. Many senior living centers offer daily card games and weekly tournaments for their residents. Card games like solitaire can also be enjoyed alone. Many older adults find the familiarity of these games comforting and calming.
Chess is the game for masters of strategy. Many seniors have played since they were young children and probably have developed a “habit.” Many agree that chess can be addictive. This perhaps proves once and for all that all addictions need not be harmful. Encourage your chess loving senior to get his daily dose of gameplay.
The love of Chess is also something valuable that your senior can pass along to the younger generations. Plan a time for your children or grandchildren can visit and learn a bit about the game. Chess sharpens and teaches valuable life lessons like strategy, sportsmanship, ethics and critical thinking, impacting the mind of adults and children alike.
Whether playing an instrument or listening to their favorite tunes, music is the perfect leisure activity for many seniors. Studies have shown that older persons who engage in musical pursuits are happier and more fulfilled. Psychology Today reports that music also impacts the cognitive ability of older adults. Researchers found that music positively affected the following abilities in seniors:
- Cognitive processing speed (recall and response)
- General and short-term memory performance
- Semantic or long-term memory
To reap these benefits, encourage participation in senior center activities centered around music. Consider providing technology that will help your senior enjoy music and other entertainment.
Tech Activities for Seniors
Technology can be intimidating to some older adults. However, reports indicate that modern aging adults love their devices just as much as the younger population. Technology offers seniors the ability to keep in touch with friends and family who are unable to visit. It can offer entertainment with a simple swipe of the screen.
Finally, technology offers seniors the tools they need to stay healthy and independent longer. Check to see if there are any classes available for your senior available to help bridge any technology gaps. Many senior living facilities offer these, as well.
A tablet or laptop can be a lifeline for a senior who is unable to travel or is unable to stay connected with their family due to distance. We know that making international or long-distance calls can add up fast.
For those living on a fixed income, this is an expense they just can’t afford. Apps like Skype, allows seniors to easily make calls anywhere, send text and voice messages at a touch of a button, and enjoy interaction through video conferencing.
Not only will this engaging activity help your senior save money, but they will also feel more connected to family members.
Many apps are designed primarily for seniors that offer easy to use and intuitive displays and interfaces. One app called Silver Surf was listed by the AARP is one of the most innovative apps for seniors in 2017.
Silver Surf creates a smooth browsing experience for seniors by amplifying the sound and screen size, intuitively. Also, most tablets and laptops come equipped with various accessibility settings designed to make the device easier to use for senior activities.
Some seniors have even turned technology into a hobby. This video from the “world’s oldest blogger” is inspiring. At 103 years old, Dagny Carlsson is an inspiration to us all.
Check out this video for a few “life hacks” from a tech-savvy senior:
Health Technology for Seniors
If your senior is living in a full-care facility, you won’t need to worry about their medication. However, at many assisted living and retirement communities, seniors are responsible for their own medication regimen. This is one area where having a tech-savvy senior is a huge blessing. Apps like PillBoxie are designed to help seniors remember to take their medication.
Helping your senior have a better quality of life is a primary concern when you are evaluating senior care facilities. These are just a few of the senior activities that may help improve their health and well-being.
If you or your loved one routinely enjoy senior activities that we missed, feel free to share with us in the comments section below!