Do a Google search for “activities for seniors” and you’re likely to come up with a variety of crafts, games, ideas for memory stimulation, and of course, the stereotypical bingo. What you won’t find, unless you really dig deeper, are more meaningful, philanthropic activities. And yet, if you ask older adults what they’d most like to do, the majority won’t mention crafts and games. What they would desire most is a feeling of purpose.
The University of Minnesota shares that our most vulnerable times in life are our first year of life, and our first year after retirement. Losing the sense of purpose found in a fulfilling career can result in serious health complications – even an earlier mortality rate, if that sense of purpose isn’t reshaped in some way to allow the person to experience a continued sense of being needed.
One successful program, the Baltimore Experience Corps, pairs seniors with young children in understaffed schools, giving them the priceless opportunity to mentor, assist with reading skills, and serve as a warm and accepting friend to their young counterparts. And they’re assisting themselves in the process. As Michelle Carlson, Ph.D., of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shares, “By helping others, participants are helping themselves in ways beyond just feeding their souls. They are helping their brains. The brain shrinks as part of aging, but with this program we appear to have stopped that shrinkage and are reversing part of the aging process.”
When working with seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it may take a bit more creativity to uncover engaging activities that enhance their sense of pride and purpose. Hillendale Home Care of Walnut Creek, CA offers the following ideas to help get you started:
- Research local and national organizations that benefit those in need – the homeless, veterans, animals, women and children in poverty or crisis, etc.
- See if these organizations have any volunteer tasks that older adults or those with cognitive impairment could assist with, like:
- Charities like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that require cutting, folding, and stapling lengths of ribbon to cards for distribution.
- Animal shelters and humane societies are often seeking donated towels and blankets that can be laundered and folded at home; or caregivers and seniors could bake homemade pet treats together, or even take dogs for walks together or volunteer to play with kittens.
- Assemble care packages for veterans or the homeless with individual-sized toiletries, snacks, etc.
- Work on coloring pages or other simple crafts together, letting the senior know they will be donated to a local domestic crisis facility to brighten up the day for women and children.
- Allow the person to assist with as many tasks as possible around the home: sorting and folding laundry, shelling peas, setting the table – acknowledging to the senior how much his or her help is needed and appreciated.
At Hillendale Home Care, in-home care is more than just providing care in the home; our caregivers are dedicated to helping seniors live lives filled with meaning and purpose. For more tips and resources on helping older adults maintain the highest quality of life, call Hillendale Home Care’s senior care experts at 925-933-8181.