Perform an online search for the term “activities for seniors” and you'll probably find a variety of crafts, games, memory stimulation puzzles, and of course, the requisite bingo. What you will not find, unless you search much harder, are the meaningful, philanthropic activities that provide purpose to our lives. Yet, if you ask seniors what they’d most wish to do, the majority of them won’t mention games, art projects, or bingo. What they want more than anything is to feel useful and have purpose in their seniors years. The University of Minnesota highlights how the most vulnerable times in our lives are the first year of life, and the initial year after we retire. Losing a sense of purpose that comes from a rewarding occupation can bring about substantial health concerns – and even an earlier mortality rate, if that sense of purpose is not redefined in some way to enable the older person to experience a continuing sense of being useful. One very 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, provide help with reading abilities, and serve as a welcoming and nonjudgmental pal to the children. And they are undoubtedly helping themselves in the process as well. As Michelle Carlson, Ph.D., of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health explains, “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 supporting older individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia with senior care, it might take a bit of creativity to discover enriching activities for seniors that increase their sense of purpose and meaning. As providers of top-rated home care services, Effraim Home Care offers the recommendations below to help get you started:
- Explore local and nationwide organizations that assist those in need – veterans, the homeless, animals, women and children in impoverishment or a crisis situation, etc.
- Determine if these companies have any volunteer options that older adults or those with cognitive difficulties could assist with, such as:
- Organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that involve folding, cutting, and stapling lengths of ribbon to cards for distribution.
- Animal shelters and humane societies are often in need of donated towels and blankets that need to be washed and folded up at home; or older individuals and family members may be able to make homemade pet treats together, or possibly even take dogs for walks together or play with kittens.
- Create care packages for the homeless or veterans with travel-sized toiletries, snacks, etc.
- Work on coloring pages or other simple crafts together, letting the older person know they will be given to a local domestic crisis shelter to brighten the day for women and children.