Perform an online search for the words “activities for seniors” and you’re likely to find an assortment of memory stimulation puzzles, crafts, games, and of course, the requisite bingo. What you will not find, unless you search much more, are the purposeful, philanthropic activities that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. And yet, if you ask seniors what they’d most wish to do, the majority of them will not mention games, art projects, or bingo. What they want more than anything is to feel useful.
The University of Minnesota shares facts on how the most vulnerable times in our lives are our first year of life, and our first year after we retire. Losing a sense of meaning that stems from a fulfilling occupation can bring about extensive health problems – and even an earlier mortality rate, if that sense of meaning is not redefined in some way to let the senior experience a continued sense of being useful.
One extremely powerful program, the Baltimore Experience Corps, pairs older adults with young children in schools that are understaffed, providing them with the invaluable opportunity to mentor, help with reading abilities, and serve as a kind and nonjudgmental friend to the children. And they are certainly helping themselves in the process too. 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 providing caregiving for seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it can take a bit of creativity to identify enriching activities that increase a sense of purpose and meaning. Stay Home Care, providers of dementia care in Brentwood and the surrounding areas, offers the tips below to help get you started:
- Research local and national organizations that assist those in need – veterans, the homeless, animals, women and children in impoverishment or a crisis situation, etc.
- Find out if these organizations have any volunteer opportunities that older adults or those with cognitive difficulties could assist with, such as:
- Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that necessitate folding, cutting, and stapling lengths of ribbon to cards for distribution.
- Animal rescue shelters and humane societies often need donated towels and blankets that need to be cleaned and folded up at home; or seniors and family members may be able to make homemade pet treats together, or possibly even take dogs for walks together or play with kittens.
- Put together care packages for veterans or the homeless with travel-sized toiletries, snacks, etc.
- Work on coloring pages or other uncomplicated crafts together, letting the older adult know they will be given to a local domestic crisis shelter to brighten the day for women and children.
Be sure the older adult has opportunities to help with as many tasks as possible around the home: sorting and folding laundry, snapping beans, setting the table – letting the person know how much his or her help is required and valued.
At Stay Home Care, our top-rated home and dementia care in Brentwood and the surrounding communities, goes beyond simply providing caregiving for seniors; our innovative services help seniors live lives filled with purpose and meaning. For more suggestions on helping older adults maintain the highest quality of life, call us any time at 615-964-7726.