Everyone can get bored, and that includes older adults. A senior in ill health or with reduced physical mobility might struggle to get enough social interaction or to find activities to keep them occupied.
What kinds of things are best for older people to do alone?
There are a multitude of activities for seniors that we’re going to cover in this article.
By the time you’re done reading, every time your aging loved one complains of boredom, you’ll know just which activity to suggest to them.
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What Can Seniors Do When They Are Bored?
Boredom is well, boring, but more so than that, it might not be best for a senior’s health.
When people are bored, their mental health can plummet.
That’s not all. A Psychology Today article cites a study that found that recurring boredom could increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease death compared to those who don’t feel bored.
The best thing to do is to help older family members stay engaged, whether you can be there with them or not.
Here are some activities a senior can do today.
Do A Puzzle
Puzzles are mentally challenging but not physically so.
Seniors in most age ranges should be able to handle jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles, even if their physical health or mobility isn’t that great anymore.
If you’re shopping for a puzzle for the senior in your life, don’t buy a kids’ puzzle with 25 pieces. That’s way too easy, plus it’s insulting to senior citizens.
The exception would be buying puzzles for someone who has dementia or reduced cognitive function – and even that depends on what stage they are in.
Rather, buy a big puzzle with hundreds of pieces. These kinds of puzzles can occupy people of all ages for hours, days, or even weeks, depending on how much time they’re committing to the puzzle.
Write Out Their Life Story
Your senior has been on this earth for many years. They’ve lived through historical periods that most people can only read about today.
They have a lot of stories to tell that can come through them and just them.
If your senior is of an able mind, then you might encourage them to sit down and write the details of their life story.
They don’t have to do it in one sitting. Working some writing time into daily routines is one of the best ways to record a lifetime of memories.
My mother-in-law did this and it has been a special blessing for the family, now that she has passed away.
None of knew she’d written about her early life until she was gone and my sister-in-law found her manuscript.
She had recorded her memories on simple, spiral bound notebook paper – no “fancy” paper needed.
We all learned so much about her childhood growing up on a farm and discovered little insights into her early life, along with what life in general was like at that time (1930s).
Seniors who write about their lives aren’t trying to write a memoir, per se (although that’s fine too, if they’re up for such an undertaking).
Rather, they just want to have those details in writing before they can’t remember their richness.
This is an excellent way to preserve their life story, which will be a precious keepsake to pass down to the younger generation of your family.
Learn Or Practice A Language
For the seniors who are still as mentally sharp as a tack, learning a new language can be a great way to stave off boredom.
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language or ACTFL, learning another language can improve one’s creative thinking, memory function (including short-term and long-term memory), spatial and verbal abilities, and problem-solving.
Classes should be available at a nearby community college and you can even find online courses if you don’t drive.
Tend To An Indoor Garden
For seniors who are home bound or can’t physically work in a traditional garden, it can be devastating to feel like you can’t enjoy the gardening activities you love.
However, there are still plenty of ways to get involved in gardening, even if you can’t get out into the yard.
One option is container gardening. This type of gardening allows you to grow plants in pots or other containers, which can be kept on a porch or patio.
Another option is community gardening in your local area.
Many communities have gardens that are open to the public, and some even have specific plots set aside for seniors.
Community gardens are a wonderful way to meet other gardeners and enjoy the outdoors.
Finally, many nurseries and garden centers offer classes and workshops specifically for seniors.
These classes can provide an opportunity to learn about new plants and planting techniques, as well as socialize with other seniors who share your love of gardening.
Whatever your situation, there’s sure to be a gardening activity that’s perfect for you.
Knit Or Sew
If you’re a senior who likes to knit, sew, or crochet, you’re in luck (and if you don’t, here a chance to learn a new skill and improve your hand-eye coordination)!
There are plenty of activities out there for people like you.
Many communities and senior centers have knitting or sewing clubs that meet regularly. These clubs are a great way to socialize and make new friends with similar interests.
In addition, there are often community events that allow you to show off your skills.
For example, some towns hold knitting competitions, or host exhibitions of quilts and other sewing projects.
If you already know how to do these crafts and are looking for a more social activity, volunteering to teach knitting or crochet classes to young people at a local community center is a great option.
You can also use your skills to make items for charity.
For example, many hospitals are always in need of blankets and other warm items for patients.
When I went through chemotherapy for breast cancer, I was grateful for the soft, warm caps a kind volunteer had crocheted and left in the infusion room one day when I had forgotten mine.
Whatever you choose to do, there are plenty of activities out there for seniors who like to knit, sew, or crochet.
Do Some Light Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise has plenty of health benefits for everyone, including older generations.
FamilyDoctor.org suggests that the elderly exercise weekly for 2.5 hours, prioritizing moderate aerobics.
As with any new physical activity, it’s a good idea for elderly people to check with their doctor to be sure they are healthy enough to do the activity.
Learn About Family History
Where does your senior come from? How far does their family tree branch back? 100 years? What about 200 years?
These are no longer questions we have to endlessly hypothesize about.
With the wealth of genealogy services out there, a senior can easily learn more about their very fascinating family tree.
What Are Emotional Activities For Seniors?
If you want to come up with meaningful activities for your senior parent or loved one, appealing to their emotions is a great way to do it.
Here are some rather emotional activities to consider.
Listen To Old Music
We’ve discussed this on the blog before but listening to music from a senior’s youth will bring back a flood of memories.
Even those seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s can benefit from this activity.
Mayo Clinic notes that a senior’s musical memory remains mostly intact even if they do have a form of dementia.
Further, listening to music can lessen agitation, depression, anxiety, and stress.
Watch Old Films
Sitting down and viewing old movies or television shows will surely also dredge up memories.
If your senior has dementia, the memories that come back to them can be much more than usual.
Engage In Art Therapy
Through art therapy, a senior can express feelings, emotions, and fears that they may struggle to share verbally.
View Home Movies
Here’s a way to get everyone in the room feeling emotional. Watch some old home movies together!
Whether it’s footage of family vacations from decades prior or Christmases when you were just a baby, this is a great chance to take a trip down memory lane!
One good way to stay connected is through volunteering.
There are many opportunities to volunteer in the community, whether it’s at a local school, library, or local senior center.
Volunteering on a regular basis can help you feel useful and needed, while also giving you a chance to socialize.
No matter how you choose to stay connected, it’s important to make sure you’re putting forth the effort to maintain emotional ties with the outside world.
Doing so will help you stay engaged and alive as you enjoy your golden years.
Unique Activities For Seniors
When it comes to activities for seniors, most people recommend bingo. Like anything, the allure of bingo wears off fast, leaving a senior longing for something more.
The following unique activities ought to fill that void!
Take An Art Class
If your fingers are still dexterous enough, then why not sign up for an art class or two?
An art class is a great way to interact socially with others and perhaps even make some new friends.
Plus, the art skills you learn are yours for life.
For those seniors who don’t drive, look into an online art class.
You can still do all the art with others, but you’d watch the instructor on a computer rather than sitting in on an in-person class.
Continue Your Education
You’re never too old to stop learning.
Minnesota-based home and community services company, Knute Nelson, states that learning can increase the number of neurons the brain has as well as its connections.
This in turn augments a person’s reasoning, thinking, attention, and memory abilities.
Again, a senior has the option to take an in-person class at a local community college or sign up for an online course or two.
Engage In Fun Exercises
Exercise does not have to be boring!
From shuffleboard to mini golf and swing dancing, a senior has lots of enriching, exciting ways to move their body.
Group exercise classes are even better, but a senior can exercise anywhere, even at home with online exercise programs.
The birds that live in your neighborhood are quite interesting creatures!
Seniors can learn more about them by taking up the relaxing activity of birdwatching. You’ll expand your knowledge and pick up a unique activity at the same time.
Take A Cooking Class
Cooking can be a great way to boost mental and physical health.
It can help seniors to stay sharp by challenging their cognitive skills, and it can also give them the opportunity to get some exercise by moving around the kitchen.
Finally, seniors who take cooking classes will have the chance to meet new people and socialize with others who share their interest in food.
Plus, after decades of cooking the same recipes over and over again (Taco Tuesday, anyone?), taking a cooking class can be a great way to change things up a little.
You’ll not only learn a new recipe or two, you can also learn a little bit about a new culture while you’re cooking.
Many kitchenware stores and offer in-person classes and you can often even find these classes in your local grocery store.
Even seniors with limited mobility can attend online classes. My daughter and I once took an online pasta-making class (her Mother’s Day gift to me) with other students from around the world.
We had a great time “being together” in the class, while the two of us were physically located in cities 400 miles apart from each other.
And the Italian instructor taught the class from his home kitchen in Milan!
Evening Activities For Seniors
When the sun goes down, a senior does not necessarily have to go to bed.
They can engage in these activities whether they live on their own, with you, in a nursing home, or in an assisted living community.
Play Card Games Or Board Games
Card games are a great activity for seniors, especially those who aren’t suffering from dementia.
Holding and laying down cards isn’t physically strenuous, and with so many fun card games, many nights can be filled playing go fish and poker.
Board games are another idea in this same vein.
Try to stick to better-known board games. Games with simpler rules are often better for seniors.
Have A Group Movie Night
Gather your senior and their fellow buddies or even bring the whole family together for weekly movie nights.
Someone picks the film, you can pop the popcorn and provide the other snacks, and everyone can enjoy some meaningful time together.
Host A Trivia Night
Seniors without memory issues often know more than many people give them credit for. Test your senior’s knowledge with a trivia night.
Each week, the trivia can be centered around a different theme so there’s always something to look forward to.
Activities For Isolated Seniors With Limited Mobility
Those seniors who are isolated and with limited mobility are prone to loneliness and boredom, which means they’re at a higher risk of depression and possible health issues.
The following activities are recommended for this subset of older adults
Reading can take a senior away from their circumstances and transport them to other worlds. It’s a great form of escapism to pick up a book.
Seniors who have vision or concentration issues can always listen to audiobooks.
If you want to make reading a more social activity, you can always try to get a book club together at your senior’s home (or your home if your senior parent or loved one lives with you).
Even monthly book club meetings will give your senior something to look forward to. Plus, they certainly won’t be bored!
Perhaps a senior picks up the phone and has a nice chat or uses FaceTime or Zoom to make a video call.
We love the Echo Show devices for this, because they do much more than simple video calls. Read more about things seniors can do with the Echo Show here.
Keep in mind that some newer technology can be harder for your senior parent or loved one to figure out, especially without you being there to help.
Do Arts And Crafts
From making jewelry to collages, magnets, book covers, painted vases, decorative wreaths for the front door, or holiday ornaments, there is no shortage of ideas for arts and crafts.
Perhaps every week, when you visit with your senior, you pick out a project for them to work on (with their involvement and final approval, of course).
Boredom is more than a feeling of discontentment. It can breed depression in seniors. Those who are bored may even have shorter lives compared to those who can fill their time with activities.
We hope the myriad of activities that we discussed today give you some great ideas for things to do with your senior parent or loved one. Good luck!