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Concerns for the Sandwich Generation
One of the concerns for many of us in the Sandwich Generation, caring for elderly parents in home or a long distance away, is the possibility of dealing with dementia. Will our parents develop it? Are the already developing it? Could we develop it? Are there ways to delay or prevent dementia? Can fun activities elderly seniors can participate in help with that?
Are there ways to prevent dementia?
No one, yet, can really fully answer the question “are there ways to prevent dementia?” whether from Alzheimers Disease or other causes. However, many experts are confidently hopeful that staying active and involved, both physically and mentially, is a vital key. Alz.org/ recommends, “Embrace lifestyle habits that improve your overall health, such as exercising, consuming a nutritious diet — and staying cognitively and socially active. Science suggests these may support brain health as well.”
The Today show shared a new report in their post, “9 lifestyle changes, starting in childhood, may lower future Alzheimer’s risk,” with #9 being to avoid social isolation. “Brain health experts are emphasizing the importance of staying socially engaged as studies show this is a potent risk factor for brain health.”
They and many others recommend getting involved in community and other activities early to stave off dementia from Alzheimers Disease and other causes.
In other words, exercise your body and your brain as much as possible. It’s good for you, makes you feel better about yourself, and might – just might – delay the ever-worrisome threat of dementia for yourself. And, perhaps more importantly for caregivers, helping our elderly parents do the same might help them as well, which in turn helps us. So what are some fun activities elderly seniors in our family can enjoy?
I’ve gathered a raft of ideas. Hopefully you will find a least a handful of fun activities for senior citizens of all ages from totally healthy to those dealing with dementia that can give you ideas for yourself and/or your elderly parents. 🙂
Fun community activities for seniors
In most communities, there are a variety of activities going on throughout the year. Here are some ideas for fun community activities for senior citizens who are still able to be active and out going.
1. Join or create clubs that interest you such as:
- Learning the computer
- Sewing and quilting
- Going to shows together, whether movies or live performances
2. Senior Center Resources
Not sure where to find clubs for seniors and not interested in starting your own? If you live in a retirement community like our Roseville Sun City, they may have several of these and more as options. Many libraries offer these types of fun activities for senior citizens as well. Our Roseville library has a Fab 50 club with a list of activities found in each of the quarterly parks and recreation magazine updates.
The senior center in your area should have some options to suggest as well. To find yours, try typing in “senior center” AND city, state (without the quote marks). For example, when I typed in…
senior center AND Sacramento CA
Google turned up several results. Of course, Sacramento is a BIG city so that makes sense. But I also tried typing these same search terms along with the names of some of the medium and tiny cities of various loved ones. The medium cities often have a senior center. The tiny cities will turn up results for the closest medium city with a senior center.
More options can often be found with other searches.
Try typing in “area agency on aging AND state name (without the quote marks). For example
area agency on aging AND California
led me to Area Agencies on Aging by county for the state of California
Here’s a slightly different search…
state department for aging AND California
that turned up even more interesting results.
These are especially helpful for those of us helping elderly seniors long distance. I know, as I was making good use of this list a few weeks ago for one of my sweet seniors.
Once you find one or two senior centers or agencies nearby, give them a call and ask them what is available in your area for senior activities.
Volunteering pays high dividends
Volunteer for causes that interest you. I suggested this to one senior relative a few years ago. Sadly, he wasn’t interested. Having worked most of his adult life, he felt that if he wasn’t paid, what was the point? I’m here to assure you that you ARE paid for volunteering! You are paid with smiles, hugs, satisfaction, enjoyment, friendships, engagement, and so much more. Not to mention the best part – keeping your brain active and alert longer in life.
Not sure what fun volunteer activities are available for senior citizens? Here are some ideas:
1. Your church
2. Your police department – including starting a Neighborhood Watch group
3. Your city – I never realized how many opportunities there can be to volunteer for our city. My city of Roseville welcomes volunteers so much, they have lists of places to volunteer on their website. Some of their ideas, that your city might also have available, include:
- crossing guard
- library story time leader
- homework helper
- adult tutor
- landscape / restoration project assistant
- docent or cashier for local museums
4. school districts – they can use volunteers for tutoring and special projects, helping with sports and fund raising, and more.
5. local non-profits including:
- Heart Association
- Alzheimers Association
- Parkinsons Disease Association
- Seniors Groups
- Salvation Army
- Veteran’s groups
- Nursing homes
- Assisted living facilities – YES! They will often accept volunteer help. According to the writer, Kim Dickson, of one of my activities resources, 150+ Crafts and Activities for Seniors, many assisted living facilities would LOVE volunteers to help with crafts or even just to visit lonely residents. Kim wrote, “I’ve personally observed that most senior citizens that reside in an assisted living or nursing home have very few family or friends to visit them which make their lives lonely and unfulfilled.” What a great volunteer opportunity.
And there are so many more. The website Just Serve looks to be a good resource for finding even more options in your area. There’s also an interesting looking book that looks useful for this – The Senior Volunteer.
Fun activities elderly seniors may enjoy
It’s also important to stay active at home. For that matter, what if our senior parent has never been one to get out and about. Perhaps they are very shy, or just don’t have the energy/health to do volunteering or get involved with groups? There are plenty of fun activities elderly seniors can do right in their own neighborhood and home.
Find a neighbor who is lonely or needs extra help. That can be a fellow senior in your independent care apartment or a young mom struggling with 3 toddlers under 5. That definitely described me, many years ago. My elderly next door neighbor and 3 sweet senior neighbors across the street all became extra grandparents to our kids who loved them! And we were blessed to help them in various ways as well. We have such sweet memories from that season of life. Plus, one of my kids is an excellent knitter thanks to one of those grandmas. But you don’t have to have a special skill to do something like that. Just reach out and say hello. Look for little ways to help. Strive to be proactive at being involved.
Perhaps you have one or more distant relatives who would welcome phone calls once a week. You don’t even have to leave your comfy recliner to enjoy some healthy mental stimulation while chatting merrily away. Too many seniors I know love to receive the phone calls but rarely initiate them. I have set my alarm clock to remind my senior mom to call a special loved one. They used to chat regularly and still love to. But nowadays they don’t always remember to call. A simple quick reminder will lead to a half hour of happy chatting and a big smile on both faces as they hang up the phone.
Board games are great brain exercise
I love playing games with my grandkids. Not because I am a board game enthusiast (I’m a grandkid enthusiast 😉 ). I rarely play otherwise. But it’s such a terrific way to spend time with them, teach important lessons through good sportsmanship, get one on one (or four on one 😉 ) time with them. We all enjoy it thoroughly. Right now, it’s harder as most of my grandchildren live a long distance away. But we make good use of online games and apps. I play chess daily with one grandchild. A couple of others and I occasionally enjoy Carcassone, Words with Friends, or Hangman. Still others love the riddles I find and share on our phone chats. All of these are great ways to exercise their brain AND mine! And definitely make for fun activities elderly seniors can enjoy with their grandkids and great-grandkids.
(These games should also be available for the iPhone via your App Store. 😉 )
If you have elderly parents who have enjoyed games over the years, it would be wise to encourage them to continue playing. Whether solitaire by themselves, or group games with friends or neighbors, it’s great brain exercise. Perhaps spend an hour or so a week playing a game with them as well. Even if it’s not your favorite cup of tea, the time spent playing and chatting will result in sweet memories in the years to come as well as great brain exercise for both of you.
I just found my grandfather’s Chinese Checkers board. It’s the only board game my mom has ever played. She has enjoyed many a game with her great-grandkids on that board and others. Hmmmm, guess I’ll be picking up some marbles soon. 😉
If we can find a game that correlates with something from their past, that could add incentive to playing. My senior dad might have played a few games of chess with me if I’d found this chess set sooner.
But, of course, the other side of the coin – would we be able to remember which piece does what when they are so different from norm. An important question to ask for anyone – and especially any senior starting to deal with memory issues. So when you pick board games, be sure to take into account the learning curve – especially if you are caring for elderly parents with dementia. In the early stages, they may be able to do more. But be ready to adapt the game or change it as needed, as this disease progresses.
One thing I’ve been learning is that as their memory fades, old memories do last longer. So they may not be able to keep playing a game they learned in the last few years. But they might be able to play an old familiar game from their childhood, like Chinese Checkers, just fine.
Word games are excellent activities
Word games can definitely be fun activities elderly parents can enjoy even with the beginnings of dementia. Look for word search and EASY crossword puzzle books along with fun trivia puzzles. And finding ones that are actually EASY can definitely be HARD! If they can use the computer, AARP has an easy crossword puzzle online. My senior parents are no longer able to use the computer though. So I went hunting for printed options. I did find a great set of fairly easy crossword puzzles for seniors for one relative. Easy as Pie Crosswords: Really Easy! By Stanley Newman.
According to the reviews on several other crossword puzzle books I looked at, the author’s idea of easy was NOT the recipients idea of easy. However, this particular set got great reviews at Amazon. There are several of these easy crossword puzzles for seniors in the series.
My senior mom was never one to do crossword puzzles. But she did discover word search puzzles a few years ago and enjoyed them for some time. I went on a search for easy word search puzzles seniors could enjoy and bought her a couple of books she really liked including the Everything Bible Word Search Book that we both especially liked.
Boring ain’t bad
Laundry, dishes, and weeding the garden are all chores to me. Frankly, they are boring chores made more interesting by listening to audio books and training podcasts while I work. But my senior mom has always enjoyed all of those. And even though they are getting tougher for her to do, I have to constantly remind myself that SHE thinks they are fun activities and really enjoys them. AND it makes her feel good about herself, that she is making an important contribution (which she is). That makes them fun activities elderly seniors like her can enjoy!
An important caveat here that I constantly struggle with. Don’t let false guilt stop them from enjoying themselves. Those of you are are like me know what I mean. We feel guilty letting them do the dishes or wash your clothes. But oh! The joy she gets at feeling useful makes it so worthwhile! Of course, if your senior parents also get bored with them, then definitely skip this section and keep your chores to yourself. 😉
Music makes the day go faster
Music activities elderly seniors can participate in can be as simple as listening to familiar and much-loved songs from their past. Others may enjoy going to a local concert. One relative of mine so enjoyed the blue grass music she enjoyed at the assisted living community near her independent apartments.
Holidays often provide great opportunities for free concerts – whether Christmas, Easter, harvest or patriotic music. Something my parents have long enjoyed.
Doing something during the dancing can make for fun activities for senior citizens! Ballroom dancing is fun to watch and even more fun to join in on. They’ve even done studies that show dancing can help Parkinsons Disease patients and others. Here’s a video describing that. And I have this video on one of my YouTube playlists along with other videos on the topic. It also has links to a few long music playlists that might be pleasant for many of our elderly parents to listen to including familiar old swing music, classical music, and old church hymns and songs.
Fun Craft Activities for Elderly Seniors
Yes, you knew I would get to these eventually. With as many craft projects as I do with my grandkids, it’s definitely a subject near and dear to my heart. Frankly, I have a feeling that someday, if I’m living in an Assisted Living facility, I’ll be busy volunteering to help with these projects all the time. And that sounds like fun to me! 🙂 Interestingly enough, the two sweet seniors I work with the most have never been into arts and crafts projects. Fortunately, one had fun crocheting and I have several lovely blankets to show for it. The other was a gardener all the way! And I’ve enjoyed many a home grown tomato through the years, quite thankfully.
For years, my senior mom loved sending special greeting cards to her grandkids and great-grandkids. We would regularly go shopping for her to pick out more cute ones. She so enjoyed that. She is not able to do that much anymore so I’ve taken over those duties to some extent. But if your elderly parents enjoy greeting card activities, I would encourage you to help them in this endeavor. It’s another great way to stimulate their brains and give them positive ways to impact the hearts and minds of their beloveds.
Painting pinecones should be fun and easy for most seniors to do. And aren’t those little pinecone gnomes adorable. If you’re not able to crochet or knit those cute hats, you could make them out of felt instead. Add 3 little pom poms for the feet and beard and voila. Very easy and very cute.
Pinterestingly Fun Activities for Senior Citizens
For those who are blessed with senior parents who DO enjoy craft projects, there are many great resources to help with those. To start, I have two Pinterest accounts – SandwichINK and KayeSwainRE. Here are some Pinterest boards I have with many ideas – including my grandkids board – because a lot of those projects can work for any age!
- Easy arts and crafts ideas for senior citizens & grandkids
- Fun Activities for Elderly – includes a couple of tutorials for similar Christmas gnomes. 🙂
- Grandkid Fun
- You can also check my KayeSwainRE holiday boards for holiday-specific ideas.
More Fun Activity Ideas for Seniors
Blogs with interesting ideas
Here are some other blogs with great activity ideas for seniors, including those dealing with dementia:
ElderOneStop has many delightful ideas for things to do, here or there, as time allows. She includes cooking ideas which is great for elderly parents with dementia who aren’t able to cook any more but maybe miss doing so. I especially appreciate that there are easy crafts that many of our elderly parents will enjoy, including dementia patients, listed by seasons/holidays. 🙂
Seniors Love to Know has a list of several great trivia question resources with questions of interest to those born in the 30s and 40s. These will be fun for me for extra conversation topics while chatting with my senior mom or talking on the phone to other elderly relatives. AND they are great brain stimulators as well.
Books like 150+ Crafts and Activities for Seniors
150+ Crafts and Activities for Seniors by Kim Dickson
Crafts for Senior Citizens – A Two Year Long, Ready to use Program in PDF Format by Christine Anderson
Care for elderly parents with dementia? More tips and ideas
With beloved aunts, uncles, friends, and, of course, elderly parents reaching their 80s and higher this decade, I’m realizing how challenging this topic can be for many of them due to health issues.
I’ve always figured I would be reading my way through my very golden years. But what if I lose my eyesight due to cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration or something else. I’ve seen that happen to some of my loved ones?
Gardening? I know many who say they could do that blind and deaf. But what if 5 minutes out there wears you out and you’re right back inside? Yes, something else that is quite prevalent, I’m afraid.
Knitting and crocheting? Well, in my case, it would have to be crocheting. I can’t knit that good when I’m in good shape. 😉 Still, you have to be able to remember the stitches. And what if you are dealing with arthritis?
All so challenging. But the most challenging, I think, is dementia. My computers will keep me busy for many more decades, I hope. But what if aging-related memory loss or dementia take their toll, as I’ve also witnessed more than once in my family?
In my case, Lord willing, I know one thing I plan to do til I die or the Lord takes my whole mind – pray! And I’m blessed to have my sweet mom be my prayer partner many times.
Helping elderly seniors with dementia or other issues?
Before you start getting depressed, let me encourage you. While I am seeing beloved elderly on both coasts having to pare down their activities, God is gracious. They have added more naps to their daily regimen and that’s a good thing for them in many ways. At the same time, normal daily activities are taking longer than they used to. So they actually have less free time for these fun activities elderly seniors enjoy.
Adapt crafts and activities to them
Many of the suggestions above can work well as fun activities elderly seniors with dementia can participate in. You just have to adjust them to match your senior parents’ interests and abilities.
Of course, good ole TV helps them while away some hours. Though trying to use the remote control can definitely be a challenge for many. I’ve learned to keep photos of their remotes in my cell phone so when they call for help, I can talk them through how to change channels for their favorite evening show.
There are some simpler “senior” TV remotes. I’m sending one to a long distance relative later this week to try out.
It can also pay to get creative with TV shows. My senior mom and I enjoy law enforcement dramas like all the NCiS shows, all the Law & Order Shows and various other in that genre. But we are also using off channels like ME TV to watch some of the oldie goldies like Perry Mason and the original Hawaii Five-0. Fun memories she enjoys and we can chit chat about.
A couple of my sweet seniors enjoy listening to books on tape. We appreciate the Audible Books option at Amazon. Many audio books are available to play on CD or DVD players as well as our smart phones. My mom can’t handle a smart phone. But with a bit of help, she can enjoy them on her DVD player.
If one of your senior parents has lost their eyesight, I understand you may be able to get audio books free from the Braille Institute. Plus the local library should have audio book options at their location and often online as well.
I have my senior mom’s iPad loaded with photos and videos of grandkids and great-grandkids along with some of the cute critters where we live. She really enjoys spending time looking at those.
Greeting Card smiles
I send long distance senior parents and relatives photo cards from SendOutCards.com. Regular sized cards for the most part and extra large 8×10 cards for special occasions or those with poor eye sight. And we all love the photo album books that are a regular holiday gift from our sweet kids.
Not Trivial – Trivia Fun activities elderly seniors enjoy
My newest activity for one long distance senior is making good use of those trivia ideas I mentioned above. As long time readers of SandwichINK may remember, I combine phone chat times with exercise times by heading out for long and lovely walks while chatting with kids and grandkids, as well as senior relatives. Yesterday, I printed out a page of these questions. When I called a beloved senior, I headed out the door, grabbing the sheet as I went. We had the best time with 3 of the questions including discussing Royal Crown bottle tops and where the lights flasher for a car (for regular and hi-beams) used to be. I learned new things, she enjoyed sharing and remembering and it gave us new paths for conversation. A win-win-win all the way around! This is as great as the riddles I often take with me when talking with the grandkids. 🙂 And definitely fun activities elderly seniors and we can enjoy together!
Transitioning to more passive activities for elderly
Granted, many of these fun activities for elderly seniors with dementia could be classified as passive. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing at a certain point. They are enjoyable ways we can connect, talk, and have fun together. Which is one of the best activities of all. And they are sweet memories I’m tucking away to enjoy through the years.
Want more ideas?
I’m proud to announce that this article was featured in the SeniorCare.com Aging Industry
Got more ideas?
Now, it’s your turn. Do you have any fun activities ideas for senior citizens to enjoy? We’d love to hear them. 🙂
P.S. Want even more ideas? Check out my shopping lists on Amazon including – Fun Activities for Elderly Parents. 🙂