Keep them active to keep them happier.
Activities not only help pass the time but provide medical, social, intellectual, and spiritual benefits. Seniors who maintain an active lifestyle usually spend less time worrying about the inevitable aches and pains that typically accompany aging, ongoing medical conditions, and recurring financial concerns. Activities — for any one — give people a positive reason to get up in the morning.
So how do you encourage your senior to move from a passive, sit-on-the-couch lifestyle to a more active state of mind? You can provide gentle encouragement, suggestions, and nudges at the right time. Too much direction can provoke the “Leave me alone” response. The right amount of direction will get them more involved with life.
To get seniors more active:
- Encourage walking. Still one of the best exercises for seniors, walking promotes heart health, joint support, and general good health. It also helps build stamina for those necessary daily activities. A senior who is comfortable with walking a mile or so is in better shape to handle an unexpected medical situation.
- Mention social opportunities at church or any organization they belong to. Organizational involvement can get the senior involved with others and can build a future support network.
- Help plan activities that will get the senior out of the house and away from the television. The goal is to have the senior leave the house or apartment at least once every day. It could be a trip to the store, a walk at the mall, a trip to the library, or a visit to an old friend. Look for community activities that might interest the senior, such as museums, displays, local entertainment, or shows.
- Check out programs for seniors at the local Council on Aging, Senior Center, or Community Center. An increasing number of centers offer a variety of programs and opportunities for the elderly.
- Visit the website of the local library. They may have weekly or monthly programs that will interest the person.
- Consider suggesting they volunteer for the Red Cross, library, school, or social service organization. Some seniors (and younger adults) derive great satisfaction from volunteering a few hours every week. Tutoring can be very rewarding, and some school systems especially welcome seniors who are willing to tutor reading. If they have a skill that others can use, investigate how that knowledge can be used for the benefit of others.
- If the senior is in good health, investigate day trips with a friend, a family member, or a local senior center. A trip outside their community can bring a fresh perspective and can also reinforce their sense of independence.
- Look for ways to exercise, in addition to walking. The weather is not always suitable for walking, and some people have physical conditions that preclude walking. Upper body strength is very important for seniors.
- Periodically ask about their activities, both physical and social. Don’t nag or appear nosy, but ask questions based on genuine interest. Reciprocate by sharing your activities.