Connecting with your loved ones is always one of the greatest joys life brings, and for many seniors in care or living in skilled nursing homes, the enjoyment they get through spending time with their visiting loved ones can be very special.
Many mental illnesses, like dementia and Alzheimer’s, can make seniors change their overall behavior to be more reserved and sometimes want to withdraw from many activities with their friends and family. These ailments, along with several other factors, can at times make it a little difficult to create lasting connections and memories.
This article aims to give you a list of activities that you can do with seniors in care so you’ll be more prepared to have fun and make lasting memories when you spend time with your loved ones. All of the following activities are meant to help stir up some old memories and stories, encourage your loved to express themselves, ease up on any anxiety they may be enduring and of course get them more engaged with life on a daily basis.
There are many ways to strengthen bonds and have a good time with your loved ones even when they have serious mental illnesses. The next time you visit your loved one, try one or many of these activities that will definitely bring about laughs, smiles, and emotional connections.
Put Together a Memory Bag
A memory bag is something you can use to help your loved one reminisce on their earlier years, and it’s a fun way to hear stories and get to know each other better. You’ll be able to fill the bag with whatever you think would be funny or memorable, and it’s also a lot of fun to go through old items and memorabilia in the creation process.
One good tip to keep in mind with the memory bag is that scents are very strongly connected to memory, so anything like perfumes, holiday scents, aftershave and anything that smells nice can help spark your loved one’s olfactory nostalgia flood gates.
Going Through Photo Albums
Pictures from a senior’s young adulthood and childhood are always really fun to find, and photo albums from all stages of life are always really interesting to look at and, more importantly, discuss. Ask your loved ones questions about how they remember the moments in the albums and tell your own stories, and you’ll be surprised how quickly their own memoirs of the pictures will come out.
Listen to Their Favorite Music
Who doesn’t like listening to their favorite music? Music is and always will be one of the world’s greatest enjoyments, and for seniors it can be very nostalgic and relaxing to listen to their tunes from back in the day. It’s a great option to use an internet radio station like Pandora or Apple Music, but even a radio set on their favorite station is always fun too.
If it’s hard for them to really think back on their favorite artists look into what people were listening to during your loved one’s teenage and young adult years, which could always jolt back fun memories for them.
Reading Out Loud
Reading is also nice and relaxing too, but for many seniors it’s also really fun to have someone read out loud to them and let them hold the book and feel the pages. Depending on what the book is, you can really have a good time together and get a kick out of being your loved one’s live show.
Sometimes large print picture books are great, and poetry is also a really fun option too!
Watch Old Movies and Television Programs
Maybe your loved one liked westerns growing up, family dramas like Lifetime films, or musicals. Whatever they like or were into earlier in life you can find it on Netflix or any other streaming program, and of course it’s a great way to spend a couple hours or so entertained.
Nature is always something that is worth connecting with no matter what your age is, but it can be extremely special to take your senior loved one on a nice stroll through the woods on an easy trail, or take them to a park and just listen to the birds.
What’s important with these nature walks, is that you should start conversations that go into the sensory experience of being outside wherever you may go. If you can and it’s safe, it would be fun to recreate any of their favorite outdoor activities they liked when they were younger.
Enjoy Their Favorite Treats
Again, who doesn’t enjoy their favorite treats, and sometimes very old nostalgic candy is where you’d like to go with this activity. It doesn’t need to be anything that’s too difficult to get either; even a tasty fruit could be perfect if it’s what they love.
Eating meals together is always a great bonding experience, and when it comes to spending time with the seniors in your life every day is a treat so you might as well indulge and have fun with it!
Visit and Enjoy Time with Animals
Going to a family farm or a petting zoo could be a really fun experience for seniors, especially if they grew up on a farm. Being around horses and other farm animals is always fun, but it doesn’t need to be that elaborate.
Just bringing a nice dog or cat could be a great experience as well, but it’s probably best to make sure the pet you bring is well behaved.
Bring Back Old Skills
Sometimes activities like crochet, knitting, quilting, playing cards, and any other activities they did at earlier ages is a fun thing to help rekindle. It’s often very surprising to see seniors with memory problems be able to pick up their old habits rather quickly, and this is mainly because our muscles tend to remember what the brain has somewhat forgotten.
There really are an endless amount of activities that we could describe in detail, so here’s a brief list of some other activities to consider doing with your loved one:
- Arts and crafts like painting, knitting or coloring books
- Watching family videos
- Tend a garden or go to your local botanical gardens
- Read the newspaper
- Other kitchen related activities
- Make a poster of your family tree
- Watch sports on TV and reminisce on their early days
- Talk about their favorite celebrities they had while growing up
- Any kind of exercise like short walks