Updated January 19, 2023 – Your senior parent or loved one may not get around with nearly the same vigor anymore. They might be mostly bedridden, and they may be bored, as well. How can you keep older adults with limited mobility entertained?
Here are some fun activities we recommend for seniors with mobility issues:
- Puzzles and games
- Listen to music
- Watch shows or television
- Arts and crafts
- Go through old photo albums
- Learn a language
- Video chat
- Bird watching
- Assisted walks
- Gardening (both indoors and outside)
- Eat together
- Have a tea party (learn more about the benefits of tea for seniors)
- Take an online cooking class
- Go outside
- Chair yoga
- Tai chi
In this article, we’ll define what limited mobility actually means and share some of our favorite hobbies and games for seniors who have experienced a loss of mobility.
What Can You Do With Limited Mobility?
Although you always hear of the spry 80-year-olds who remain largely independent during their senior years and live as though they’re far younger, most elderly people will have more limited mobility as they age.
Many medical conditions and diseases can reduce a person’s mobility, including:
- Obesity: It’s easier than you’d think for senior family members to become obese. As age causes them to decrease physical activity and their metabolism slows, a senior can put on weight fast.
- Osteoporosis: The decrease in bone density that osteoporosis causes can produce brittle bones. A senior might have to cut back on their activities solely to avoid breaking any bones.
- Eyesight and hearing issues: Perhaps a senior can’t see or hear as well as they once could. This can make going out into the world a confusing affair, so the senior stays home.
- Parkinson’s disease: This mobility disorder can greatly impede someone’s ability to walk safely for any length of distance (read our tips on caring for a spouse with Parkinson’s).
- Heart diseases: If your senior parent or loved one had even one heart episode, that’s one too many, we’re sure you’d agree. Older people can begin leading a more sedentary lifestyle as a result of cardiovascular concerns.
- Arthritis: Joint inflammation as caused by severe arthritis can cause limited dexterity and make everyday life for a senior very difficult and painful. They’d rather stay in one spot where they can be most comfortable.
Whether it’s one or more of these conditions or diseases that’s led to limited mobility in your senior parent or loved one, they can’t do too much anymore.
They might struggle to walk long distances, and more strenuous physical activity is certainly out of the question.
Getting up can leave the senior exhausted and in pain. They might struggle to get dressed and undressed. Eating and bathing themselves can also be quite challenging.
When the quality of life suffers like this, it’s easy for negative emotions to creep in, causing depression and anxiety.
In addition, if they aren’t going out and getting some regular social interaction, seniors become more lonely and isolated, which raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, as well as the aforementioned anxiety and depression.
One of the best ways to avoid problems with their overall health is for them to engage in enjoyable activities. Bonus points if you do them with your loved one.
They won’t be so lonely and you’ll get the benefit of hearing family stories and reminiscing with them while you do things, such as listen to music or watch shows and television together.
Activities seniors with limited mobility can also enjoy include things like:
Chair yoga is a type of yoga that can be done while seated in a chair. This type of yoga is perfect for seniors with limited mobility, as it can help to increase flexibility and range of motion. Chair yoga can also help to improve balance and reduce stress.
Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that involves slow, graceful movements. Tai chi has been shown to improve balance and coordination, and can also help to reduce stress. Seniors with limited mobility can benefit from tai chi by doing it in a seated position.
Swimming is a great activity for seniors with limited mobility, as it is low-impact and easy on the joints. Swimming can also help to improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and flexibility.
Gardening is a great way to get some exercise while spending time outdoors. Seniors with limited mobility can garden outside by planting container gardens or raised beds. Indoor gardens can be grown in countertop containers.
Dancing is a great way to get moving and have fun at the same time! Seniors with limited mobility can dance by sitting in a chair or using a walker or cane for support. Dancing can help to improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and coordination. The seniors at my dad’s independent senior community LOVED dancing! Many used walkers and canes, but they could still shake their booty!
Games For Seniors With Limited Mobility
As we recommended in the intro, games are a wonderful way to engage with and entertain a senior with limited mobility. Here are the games we recommend for people of all ages.
You and your senior parent or loved one can sit down and assemble a big jigsaw puzzle. Buy a puzzle with a lot of pieces so that putting it together doesn’t take you both five minutes.
You want a moderate challenge but not a puzzle that’s too hard.
A board game is a great way to gather the family and spend some hours of meaningful time together.
Dominoes, backgammon, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Bananagrams (especially the version with the extra-large letters), Yahtzee, and Scrabble are fun games to play.
Read our article on the most popular board games for older adults.
These games don’t require too much physical effort such as popping a button or rolling a lot of dice. That said, for seniors who may have dementia, some of these games might be a little too mentally challenging (read our article about brain exercises for dementia patients.)
You can have whole afternoons of fun with only a single deck of cards!
We’d recommend learning to play as many card games as you can and then offering a list to your senior to choose from.
Since your senior parent or loved one grew up before video games were the norm, they probably know how to play quite a good number of card games.
We’d suggest rummy, canasta, bridge, pinochle, slapjack, and crazy eights especially, but whatever you two want to play is fine!
Checkers Or Chess
Seniors and games like checkers and chess go together like peanut butter and jelly. Try asking your senior parent or loved one about playing either of these games. If you don’t know how, they could teach you.
Sudoku challenges one’s logic and math abilities, so it could keep an elderly mind sharp. We recommend playing with bigger Sudoku sheets than usual for those seniors who struggle with vision issues.
Yes, of course, we had to recommend bingo. You can get a whole group of your senior’s friends together or even invite over your immediate and distant family so you can all play together.
There are large-print bingo games and sheets for seniors who have trouble reading small print.
Word games like crossword puzzles and the new and popular Wordle online game keep the mind active. They provide mental stimulation and can help ward off memory loss.
Hobbies For Seniors With Limited Mobility
Games sure are fun, but eventually, everyone has to go home and the fun stops. You want your senior with limited mobility to be able to enjoy themselves even outside of a group setting, and you think a hobby would really help give them a sense of accomplishment.
What kind of hobby should they pick up in their condition? We’d suggest these.
As we talked about in another recent post, the best part about reading is that it transports you to worlds and circumstances far removed from your own.
For a senior who is frustrated at their lack of mobility, reading can allow them to see exotic places and meet countless new faces without leaving their bed.
There are so many ways to consume books these days, from reading a good, old-fashioned paperback (or hardcover) to reading on a mobile device or even listening to an audiobook. Your senior can select whichever option they’re most comfortable with.
Learn A Language
How many languages can your senior parent or loved one speak? There’s always room for one more, we say!
Learning a new language can enhance a senior’s memory, as well as their problem-solving and creative thinking skills. Plus, they’ll have a valuable new skill they can use.
Read about how you can audit higher education classes for free (many are online!).
Although the days of your senior bending over and tending to a garden are long gone, that doesn’t mean they have to give up greenery altogether. For example, raised garden beds may be an excellent way for them to get out in the fresh air and working in the soil.
If they can’t mange that, an indoor countertop garden full of herbs is a great activity for a garden-loving senior. It’s low-effort, easy, and your senior will love being able to garnish dishes with the fresh plants they’ve harvested.
Read our article on low maintenance plants!
Read about other indoor activities for seniors and their family.
Arts And Crafts
Doing arts and crafts can mean whatever your senior wants it to. They can tap into their creative side by painting, sculpting, making collages, or doing what their heart desires. Art is a great means of expressing oneself non-verbally!
Here’s an easy art project for a senior with limited mobility (you can hide the rocks for them later, or they can display their painted rocks in their garden on on a windowsill):
Outdoor Activities For Limited Mobility
Although a senior may not be able to get around so well anymore, they shouldn’t always be confined indoors.
A report from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states, “A growing body of research suggests that exposure to nature and time outdoors also provides health benefits, particularly for mental health and an improved sense of well-being.”
If you want that for your senior parent or loved one (and we’re sure you do), here are some outdoor activities to incorporate into their routine.
There’s a whole exciting world right outside your senior’s window! With a pair of binoculars, they can watch the wildlife in the area and try to learn more about the bird species that call it home.
If your senior is a little more mobile, you can take them to parks and other outdoor locales around town to spot the birds. They’ll spend most of their time in one spot sitting and watching, which is perfect for the low-mobility elderly.
It’s okay if you don’t trust the senior in your life to walk on their own, but that doesn’t mean they should be cooped up. Whether it’s you or a home care aide, take the time to walk with them.
Getting regular exercise helps seniors burn calories and potentially stave off obesity.
Elevate an ordinary lunch into something extraordinary by going on a picnic with your senior parent or loved one.
Choose a healthy, balanced menu full of tasty foods, prepare everything, pack it into a basket, bring the checkerboard linens, and pick a place like a nice park to eat.
The feeling of the wind, the sounds of the birds, and the sensation of the grass will invigorate your senior, as will all the delicious food!
Cook And Eat Together
Maybe you already have all your meals with your senior because they live with you, but you can still enjoy cooking different, out of the ordinary foods and meals together.
And if you don’t live with your limited-mobility senior, then cooking together should be on your list.
When my mom was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, the progression was such that she was confined to a wheelchair within 10 days of her diagnosis. This was right at the start of the holiday season.
She was upset that she couldn’t make the holiday treats she was used to making, so we cooked together.
One of my very favorite memories from that horrible time (knowing I was going to lose her within a few weeks) was making Christmas cookies together.
She sat at the table while I made the dough. Then, I brought the dough and cookie sheets to her, along with the sprinkles and other decorations, and she put them on the cookie sheets and made them festive.
We chatted together the whole time, like we did when I was young and she was teaching me how to bake. Mom was more animated that afternoon than she had been since her diagnosis.
You can make many dishes together with a senior who has limited mobility.
If nothing else, go to Pinterest or YouTube and look for unusual recipes to cook together and laugh about later!
How Do You Keep A Bedridden Person Entertained?
What if walking and gardening are too much for your senior?
Although matters can feel dire once a senior becomes bedridden, all hope is not lost.
We already wrote a great post about activities for bedridden seniors. In this section, we’ll cherry-pick our favorite hobbies and interests that seniors can try whether they’re temporarily or permanently bedridden.
Your senior parent or loved one can no longer get around to see the other members of their family, nor can they visit with friends and neighbors anymore.
Bridge that gap by video chatting with these beloved people. An Amazon Echo Show is wonderful for this activity or you could provide the computer or tablet for video chatting. Tell your senior where to sit so they’re in view of the screen, dial a number, and allow them to take over.
Your senior will feel like they’re with their favorite people again even if they’re separated by miles and miles.
Look Through Old Photo Albums
You can easily spend multiple afternoons going through photo albums with your senior parent or loved one.
Don’t just look at the photos. When you see a particularly interesting one, ask your senior about it. You can also ask them questions such as where they were going that day or how they felt.
If you don’t know who someone in the photo is, quiz your senior (and then write the person’s name on the back of the photo for later reference). You’ll be glad you did when you look through them and your loved one is no longer around to remind you – I wish I had done this before my parents passed away.
Then just listen. Enjoy these moments and the stories you’re hearing, as they’re a rich part of your family history.
Have A Tea Party
Bring the poshness and luxury of a tea party to your senior by setting up a dining room, making finger sandwiches and small desserts, and pouring an array of tea. Whether you and your senior talk about anything or nothing at all, it’s nice to sit, relax, and have a delicious drink.
You could take it one step further by dressing for the occasion. Get some fun, big hats or feather boas, and wear gloves. You might even watch something “posh,” like Downtown Abbey reruns, while you drink your tea.
Take An Online Cooking Class Together
Take the tea party idea one step further with online cooking classes.
While neither of us is bedridden, my adult daughter suffered a pelvic stress fracture that has confined her to a wheelchair for 3 months while she heals.
One of the most fun things we’ve done is to take an online cooking class together. I was in my home 350 miles away from her, but it was like we were in the same room together!
How it works: you sign up for the same online class as your loved one. The instructor will send you a list of ingredients you’ll need to make the recipe (gather these in advance of the class).
At the assigned day and time, log onto the class via the meeting link you’ll get at sign up (or shortly thereafter).
In our case, we did a pasta-making class with an instructor who live-streamed from Italy! There were several other class members and we could see each other onscreen, plus interact with the instructor, as well as each other during certain parts of the class.
Any recipe that can be done relatively neatly on a kitchen table or counter can be done by a bedridden person using a lap tray or bedside table that pulls over the bed (like this one on Amazon).
It might be best to have the ingredients diced or chopped before starting, but the class itself should make for a fun way to spend some time “together.”
Reading is one of those activities that’s better when done together! This can be done with physical books or via an ereader, such as the Kindle Paperwhite.
You and your senior can join an online book club together or have a private one that’s limited to the two of you. Spend quality time taking turns reading passages aloud.
Or you could listen to an audiobook together. When you finish a chapter or the entire book, discuss the parts you liked most as well as those you liked the least.
Music Soothes The Soul
My mom-in-law loves music. She listens to it every day and she knows the words to SO many songs! I love listening to her sing them.
If your senior loved one enjoys music and wants to do a bit more than just listen, try the free musical Zoom sessions put out by Music Mends Minds. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:30 am (Pacific Time) they hold a Zoom meeting for sing-a-longs!
Final Thoughts On Activities For Seniors With Limited Mobility
Just because a senior has limited mobility or is even bedridden doesn’t mean their life has to be devoid of fun. If anything, they need exciting activities more than ever, as it gives them something to look forward to.
We hope the activities we recommended for you today help you enrich the life of your senior parent or loved one!