Updated August 19, 2022 – I used to love spending time with my grandparents. Those moments of doing something together, playing games or just making a meal together are what I remember and cherish the most.
If you are lucky enough to still have your grandparents with you – then make the time to spend some quality time with them!
Whether you’re catching up over a board game at the kitchen table or making dinner together, having some go-to activities in mind is a great way to give the younger generations in your family some time with your family’s older generation.
Table of Contents
What To Do With Elderly Grandparents?
- Engage in physical activities for seniors (which should be adapted to the senior’s personal ability and strength level)
- Include things to keep elderly hands busy
- Keep seniors mentally active with mind activities and mental exercises
- Add in group activities, such as shopping and day trips
- Ensure social interaction
Keeping the elderly community active is important for a healthy lifestyle, especially if it can be done in a fun way. Seniors sometimes need encouragement and support to try new things so be patient and help to motivate them.
Physical Activities For Seniors
One major concern with maintaining health in the elderly population is getting them to stay as active and as mobile as possible. Exercises of the physical body, as well as the mind, are important to keep older adults agile and mentally sharp as they age.
Generally speaking, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that, “Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.“
You aren’t off the hook if you can’t work out that vigorously, either.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.“
You don’t have to do long bouts of exercise every day, either. The overall goal is 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. You can break it up into 5, 10 or 15 minute increments and build up from there.
The next time you’re thinking about activities to do with your grandparents, their physical abilities and strength level must be taken into consideration. Not all activities may be suitable for them. For example, issues like limited mobility or arthritis may come into play when putting together senior activities.
These things could keep your grandparent from doing activities that require fine motor skills or grip strength or even walking.
But be careful, pushing beyond their capabilities could also result in injury.
If the senior is not physically able to fully participate in something, you can often make modifications that will allow them to take part on their own level. Some exercises can easily be modified and performed in a chair, for instance (we show some in our article on core exercises).
4 Types Of Physical Activities Suitable For Most Seniors
- Exercise programs should be gentle enough for a senior, but invigorating enough to get the circulation going and the heart rate raised. Activities like yoga and walking are typically good options for gentle exercise. These can be done at home or a local gym or senior center or you may even find some great groups in your neighborhood! Check out these 5 minute core exercises for seniors.
- Senior water exercise can oftentimes be less strenuous and safer than exercising on a hard surface. Swimming or pool activities limit the chance of the senior falling and injuring themselves. Senior swim classes are a great way to get the body moving while getting social interaction with others. Even better if these can be done with foam dumbbells!
- For those who are more agile, group cycling and aerobics classes could a great fit. The social aspect of group activities is often a great benefit for seniors, as social interaction can lower the risk of cognitive decline. To be safe I would recommend a 3 wheel bicycle like this one.
- Chair aerobics and yoga are modified versions of exercises that can be performed while seated. Seniors with difficulty balancing or standing for long periods of time can enjoy these seated activities with less chance of injury.
If any of these activities can be done outdoors, that would be even better. Just getting some fresh air can be very beneficial for anyone, including older adults.
Breathing fresh air brings more oxygen into the senior’s body which aids the healing process. The fresh air that is breathed in replaces the air that is exhaled and the toxins that go with it.communitycarenephila.org
Things To Keep Elderly Hands Busy
Doing things with our hands is a huge part of keeping our minds active and connected with our bodies. When we get older and stop engaging in many of the projects we once did, we can feel more disconnected from our world.
Activities that keep seniors busy not only help them pass the time, they can also help them stay cognitively sharp and boost their confidence. Tasks do not have to be complex or challenging; basic tasks may be difficult enough.
8 Types Of Purposeful Activities To Keep Seniors Busy
- Domestic chores – Domestic activities like cooking and cleaning are always a good option to help seniors stay connected to their surroundings and their lives.
- Decluttering – Your grandparents probably have lots of drawers stuffed with things like old photos and gadgets that don’t work anymore. Taking some time to help them to declutter those spaces and going through the memories associated with these items is a great way to spend some time with them. Here are some great products to help you organize all that stuff.
- Good books – are just another activity that can be enjoyed by older adults. Re-reading old favorites, finding something new to discuss in a book club are a great way to keep active. You can even find some great books in large print.
- Creating – There is a reason that craft projects are suggested as healthy activities for seniors – because creating something builds confidence. It gives us something to be proud of. A creation like a painting can be given as a gift or placed in the living space to remind the senior of a favorite place or perhaps a memory of a fun day.
- Play – No matter what age we are, we should never stop playing. Group activities and a favorite game are especially good for older people because of the social aspect. Bingo, card games and board games are a great group or family activity. If there are cognitive issues make sure to play simple games or do puzzles for dementia that would not be frustrating for them to do. Sometimes, the classic games like checkers or Monopoly would work.
- Lifelong Learning Classes – Park districts, libraries, and community colleges are just a few of the places seniors can look to for enriching and inspiring courses geared toward older adults. From history courses and art classes to workshops and volunteer opportunities, getting involved in a learning community is a great boost, cognitively, emotionally, and physically. You can even do something, such as taking online cooking classes together, if you aren’t in the same city as your grandparents.
- Sparking Joy – What fun things, tasks or activities spark joy for the senior? Engaging in a pleasant past time or project keeps the person motivated to continue the project. Working on photo albums, a family tree or discussing their favorite books could all be fun activities for you and your grandparents.
- Volunteering – Being of service to others is good for your physical health. For example, a Carnegie Mellon study found that, in adults over age 50, “Those who had volunteered at least 200 hr in the 12 months prior to baseline were less likely to develop hypertension.”
Volunteer activities, such as working on a home project via Habitat for Humanity or being a senior companion, not only keeps the person active, it helps them connect socially, which is also important as we age. Bottom line, volunteering is very beneficial for older adults.
We list several ways to get involved with a volunteer organization in our article, Why Should Seniors Volunteer.
Also, don’t forget about vacation time! Even seniors with limited mobility can enjoy some time away from the usual schedule! Take a look at 20 vacation ideas for seniors that I came up with.
How To Keep Seniors Mentally Active
Keeping seniors active is not all about physical movement, it’s also about mental activities. Working out the brain is just as important as working out the body. When trying to stay mentally active, remember that the more senses you can engage, the better it is for your mind.
6 Types Of Activities To Help Keep Older Adults Mentally Sharp
There are many advantages to continuing the practice of learning. Studies show that when seniors learn a new skill, such as playing an instrument, learning a new language or a new technology, it strengthens connection within the brain and it keeps dementia at bay.Twinriversseniorliving.com
- Jigsaw puzzles of any kind can exercise the mind. Putting together a jigsaw puzzle can pair hand activities with brain activities, and also helps to keep hand-eye coordination skills at optimal levels.
- Online jigsaw puzzles are something new. If your senior can work on a laptop or tablet, they may enjoy these online puzzles! Just make sure to instruct them to click the Start Puzzle button instead of the Continue button (which is an advertisement).
- Reading and writing can be a great exercise for the aging mind. Fine print books may be too small, but large print books and magazines can be just right for older eyes. Writing letters, balancing the checkbook, and even keeping shopping lists are helpful exercises for the mind.
- Playing musical instruments is one of the best mind exercises for the elderly. Learning to play an instrument or tapping into the knowledge that they acquired so long ago and playing from memory is a wonderful way to activate that part of the brain. Check out where you can take lessons near you.
- Listening to their favorite songs can be therapeutic for them, as well as gratifying to play for others. Use Alexa devices throughout the house to listen to the music that fills your soul!
- Learning a new skill can either be a great thing or not. It depends on your grandparent, their patience and their cognitive status. Although it may be difficult for them, it’s important to encourage them to try new things.
How Shopping Helps Seniors Stay Active
An early morning trip to the grocery store or local shopping mall may be just what the doctor ordered. If shopping trips are taken during the off times, there is less of a chance of the senior getting overwhelmed and frustrated with crowds of other shoppers, many of whom are typically in much more of a hurry than they are.
Another benefit of taking a weekly or bi-weekly shopping trips extends into your grandparents having the responsibility of keeping a running list (which can be a form of a mind exercise).
Seniors who no longer drive can join shopping trips through their local senior center or could arrange to go shopping with a neighbor or family member. After all, it’s not the driving that delivers the exercise, anyway!
Why Are Social Activities Important For The Elderly?
Does your elderly grandparent have friends that they see regularly? If not, it’s time to get them out and become social again. If getting out is too difficult, make sure to have regular phone calls scheduled.
The National Institute on Aging says, “Connecting with other people through social activities and community programs can keep your brain active and help you feel less isolated and more engaged with the world around you. Participating in social activities may lower the risk for some health problems and improve well-being.”
In addition, an article from the Friendship Center in California says, “People involved in regular social activities are up to 50% less likely to demonstrate cognitive decline than those who are lonely or isolated. And University of Michigan researchers found that even 10 minutes of daily social interaction can improve cognitive performance!”
Ideas On Social Activities For Seniors
- Ice cream socials – whose to say that every time you get together with others it has to be a full meal or just coffee and cake? Ice cream socials are great social events – especially if you create an ice cream bar where everyone can choose their ice cream and toppings!
- Group nature walks – taking a walk in the park or out in the country with others is a great activity that not only provides physical exercise, but to do so safely. Your grandparents may be fearful of walking alone so doing it with others can help to get them up and out.
- Theme dinners – pick their favorite movie and create a meal around it. I once hosted a dinner featuring the original movie The Blob which was released in 1958. My entire dinner was from recipes from 1958!
A Healthy Body At Any Age
In order to keep our elderly loved ones active, we must make sure that they are eating properly and feeling their best. When they are consuming foods with little to no nutritional value, their energy will be low, and they won’t want to be active.
Other things may contribute to their lack of interest in being active. These can include something like physical discomfort or pain, their cognitive ability, or mental health issues, such as dementia and depression.
A regular exercise program for the mind and body can help to preserve and better their health.
Here are some tips on how you can help your elderly grandparents to be as active as possible.
Be There For Them
One way to prevent feeling distanced from them is to be present. Being actively involved in your grandparent’s lives helps them to remember they are loved and that they matter.
Be ready to help. Tasks that seem easy to us, such as grocery shopping and doing laundry can be major events to seniors. Some tasks may be too much for them to handle on their own, especially for those that no longer drive and cannot physically get around. Your assistance can make all the difference.
Listen To Their Stories
Helping older adults feel connected in the present may mean helping them remember the past. It can be very beneficial to reminisce with them by telling stories and talking about the way you remember them.
Go through old photographs and family heirlooms from the cedar chest. Interview them with questions about their lives and put that on video. You’ll be grateful to have this personal connection to their history.
Join In The Adventure
As much as routine and familiar things are important for your grandparents, it may be good for them to try something new.
Encouraging them to try a new restaurant instead of the same old diner that they love or try a new hobby that both of you can enjoy. It not only keeps them active, both mentally and physically, it gives you shared adventures and memories that deepen your connection to each other.