Despite some people thinking it is challenging to offer activities to different levels of low-functioning seniors, trust me – this is not the case!
Look around you, anything can be turned into an activity. Below are 6 simple activities that may help with providing meaningful activities to low-functioning seniors.
1. Pet farms
Pet therapy is an incredibly effective way to bring joy to the lives of low functioning seniors. In fact, seniors often respond so positively to the company of animals, even if it only involves petting them for a few minutes, that pet therapy is often a weekly activity in most senior care centers.
If you have an elderly parent at home, who is suffering from dementia, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s or is physically infirmed, a visit to a pet farm will have an almost immediate and conspicuous uplifting effect on him/her.
2. Botanical gardens
These offer another safe and explorative setting for seniors with cognitive and physical issues. Even seniors with mobility issues can enjoy the company of nature at its best and densest in botanical gardens.
Because there is such an abundance of both flora and fauna (butterflies and birds etc.) in most botanical gardens, they also offer the perfect environment for mentally stimulating games.
3. Forest bathing
So, how exactly is forest bathing different from hiking. Well, if hiking is exercise in nature, think of forest bathing as a form of meditation in nature.
When you are hiking, your goal is to get from point A to point B along the trail. But with forest bathing, there are no goals. The idea is to simply enjoy nature, without involving any other conscious act or thought in the process.
Known as “shinrin yoku” in its native Japan, forest bathing was developed in the eighties to combat the detrimental effects of urban living. Since then, numerous studies have been conducted to understand how this natural therapy helps the body and the mind and to learn about the actual health benefits that it offers.
The core idea of forest bathing is to allow your senses to be enveloped by the offerings of nature. Simply put, you turn the five senses into pathways to admit the sights, sounds, aromas and the healing touch of nature into your body.
One of the reasons why forest bathing works exceptionally well for low-functioning seniors is because it’s not particularly hard on the body. This means, regardless of your fitness level and the need for mobility devices, you can still indulge in this form of nature therapy.
Forest bathing is not physically strenuous, yet it has a profound effect on stress and anxiety as well as the cortisol level in the body. This makes it one of the safest outdoor activities for older adults. Plus, there are no set requirements to enjoy forest bathing.
You don’t need special gear or even a special place. If you have access to the countryside, fantastic! If not, you can even make do with the local park as long as you have verdant surroundings full of trees.
4. Tea socials
This is another simple and oft ignored outdoor activity. I ask you this – When was the last time you simply met your friends to enjoy a cup of tea/coffee and for some chitchat to go with it?
Socializing is one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy, not to mention that meeting with friends is a great way to keep both boredom and depression at bay.
I have said this before and will say it again that the extremely toxic feeling of “being left behind” spells doom for seniors. But, who said that just because you are past your 60th, you need to forget your friends?
In fact, with all that time on your hands, this is the perfect juncture of life to rekindle old friendships and strike new ones.
If you don’t have friends who live in the same city or town as you do, you can always forge new friendships by finding senior-groups in your area. Don’t worry; all it takes is a quick internet search and you will find people of your age group and who have similar interests and hobbies as you do.
Turn the tea social into an outdoor event by hosting it in your backyard or combining it with a picnic. This way you get to enjoy great company in a great environment.
5. Enjoy after-school hours with your grandkids
I know, many grandparents must already be doing this. However, the point here is not just to babysit those munchkins while their parents are away but to turn this into an outdoor event that will be a lot of fun for you as well as the tots or teens.
Make it a point to enjoy the outdoors with your grandkids at least once a week. Your outing may simply involve tagging along to football practice or treating the kids to some ice cream, as long as everybody gets some exercise, time outdoors and lots of laughs out of it, you have done things right.
6. Go out for a treat
Finally, let us not forget that low functioning adults do regress back to their childhood, mentally. This means that the prospect of taking a trip for the sole purpose of enjoying a treat can bring much joy and excitement to their lives.
Be it ice cream or their favorite breakfast or even a bagel or some chocolates, the idea is to make the run memorable by turning the treat into the focal point of the hour.
Although seniors with cognitive decline may not remember the happy memories linked to that particular treat, you can be sure that the novelty of going out and the taste of something they once enjoyed will jog those neurons to some extent.