Activities for seniors
22 things for bored seniors to do
Staying healthy isn’t only about going to the doctor. For adults of all ages, having some fun is just as important. Many older adults like to socialize, learn new things and get some exercise to boost endorphins. Others prefer quiet, independent activities like reading or puzzles.
22 senior activity ideas
1. Photography: Taking photos is an indoor or outdoor activity for older adults. Seniors can take photographs in a group or independently at home, in the backyard or around the neighborhood. Photography boosts creativity and helps some adults share their thoughts and feelings. Plus, some studies show that learning photography enhances cognitive function in elderly adults.
2. Book clubs: Reading keeps the mind sharp. Belonging to a book club is an excellent way for seniors to meet new people, discuss varied topics and have a regular activity to look forward to. These days, you can even join online book clubs. Audiobooks are another great way to enjoy literature while strengthening listening skills.
3. Life story exercises: Sit down with a family member, friend or caregiver and tell your life story. This can be as casual or structured as you like — in person, over the phone or by email. Life story exercises can include worksheets you fill in, prompts or interviews. Check out StoryCorps for free online resources and to learn about different ways to preserve your story.
4. Birdwatching: Birdwatching can be fun in small groups or as an independent activity. It stimulates memory, promotes cognitive activity and inspires awareness. You can meet with a group at the park or in your neighborhood and see how many species you can spot. Birdwatching from the window or backyard requires time and patience but little to no equipment or cost. Binoculars can enhance your experience, but they aren’t necessary. Check out Audubon’s resources, download the free app below or find local field guides to identify specific birds to your area.
5. Volunteering: Volunteering lets you meet new people and contribute to the community. Many organizations specialize in matching older adults with volunteer opportunities, including outdoor and indoor activities for seniors. A one-day beach cleanup or an ongoing commitment like tutoring helps build relationships and foster a sense of accomplishment.
Stay-at-home seniors can participate, too. They can make things to donate or call other people who need a friend to talk to. The Senior Corps is a national organization that helps seniors find volunteer activities.
6. Animal interactions: Animal interactions and pet companionship have known benefits for seniors. A drive-through zoo exhibit or safari experience is a great low-movement, high-impact activity for seniors. Fostering a pet or visiting a therapy pet are other ways to boost your mood and bring out smiles.
7. Farmers markets: A neighborhood farmers market provides a full morning of activities, including shopping, people watching and tasting new foods. Strolling around is good exercise, but those with mobility issues might consider a rollator walker.
8. Road trips: A short road trip can be an affordable way to get a change of scenery. Even if it’s just a few hours away, there’s the chance to see new things for an older adult who is accustomed to staying home. Choose a destination that’s not too far or inaccessible. In some cities, road trip groups for seniors can help organize details, including routes, rest stops and transportation.
9. Movie night: Movies stimulate memories, evoke empathy and get people laughing together. Many cities are seeing a revitalization of drive-in movie theaters that let cinephiles enjoy films at a safe distance from one another. If going to the drive-in, bring a camping chair for sitting. Staying home? Don’t forget popcorn or snacks. Either way, a movie provides a healthy mental timeout.
10. Yoga and meditation: Many senior centers offer free or low-cost in-person yoga classes. You can also do yoga at home with video instruction or audio guidance. The benefits of yoga and meditation, including stress relief, are numerous and well known. Those with balance issues or limited mobility can modify poses based on their instructor’s recommendations.
11. Cycling: Bicycling is an aerobic activity that helps improve strength and balance. For seniors, cycling is a low-impact way to exercise without stressing joints. Studies show that cycling improves immunity, prolongs life and helps the brain retain cognitive ability.
For those who don’t have the option of bicycling outdoors, riding a stationary bike also provides excellent benefits. Getting on a bike periodically throughout the day could benefit older adults more than going on a long ride. A tandem bike is another option for a senior with cognitive challenges.
12. Gardening: Spending time in a home or community garden is one of the best outdoor activities for seniors. It even counts as a moderate aerobic workout.
However, gardening might be difficult due to the required bending and kneeling. Bring pads to rest on and place benches around the garden so you can rest in the shade. Modifications to a garden to make it more accessible include added vertical elements, such as plant stakes and trellises, walker or wheelchair accessible pathways and raised beds. Wear sturdy shoes, gloves and a hat.
13. Video games: A study by AARP showed that older adults play video games to connect socially, keep their minds sharp, reduce stress and have fun. This activity works very well for those with limited mobility who have trouble leaving home. With the availability of video games on multiple platforms and the vast range of choices on the market, chances are a senior can find a few enjoyable games.
14. Card games: Card games are an excellent activity for seniors with limited mobility. Games boost people’s moods and can be played in groups or one-on-one. A regular card game could be a meetup opportunity. Card games also keep the brain sharp by requiring strategy and rule adherence.
15. Puzzles: Puzzles prevent boredom and provide a fun indoor activity that can be done independently or with others. For seniors with mild cognitive decline, a puzzle is a fun way to feel a sense of accomplishment. If you're new to puzzles, find one with a well-defined image and a reasonable number of pieces. Look for online recommendations for puzzles appropriate for older adults with dementia, impaired vision and other conditions.
16. Board games: Board games, such as chess or Scrabble, offer health benefits along with fun for elderly adults. Games get groups together, relieve stress and combat memory loss and depression. Some games promote fine motor skills, while others keep the mind sharp with strategy or math. It’s important to find a board game that fits a senior’s abilities.
17. Social games: Social games like bingo, Bunko and bocce are fun, foster relationships among elderly adults and relieve stress.
- Bingo: Popular because it is easy to follow for various cognitive levels and brings people together.
- Bunko: Requires little equipment and can be played sitting down
- Bocce: Easy to learn, and players get the added benefit of being outside. Indoor croquet can be played in a relatively small space.
18. Cooking or baking: For younger people, cooking or baking with an older adult naturally yields its own rewards. You get to show off your culinary skills, have a tasty meal and possibly pass down a new tradition. According to the American Journal of Recreational Therapy, cooking has therapeutic benefits for seniors with dementia, such as stress relief, encouraging creativity and triggering memories. Choose recipes with consideration for the abilities of your elderly companion.
19. Enjoy music: Listening to music boosts your mood and stimulates memories. For some, music defines their culture, family history and traditions. Whether you play an instrument or just like to hum along, listening to and making music are rewarding experiences.
20. Make friends online: Online communities for friendships and romance are popular with seniors. Meet someone to chat with casually or take it to the next level. Many online sites and apps connect seniors from all over the world.
21. Local meetup groups: A meetup group plans various activities around town, gets together to play music or make crafts or meets online for conversation, games, happy hours and more. Many are free or have inexpensive dues. Some groups are just for seniors, and others incorporate people from all age groups.
22. Home spa day: A spa day stimulates the senses while inducing relaxation. Soaking in a hot tub reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and improves sleep. Seniors can also practice modified exercise routines in a swim spa. Remember to take safety measures and ensure the hot tub is equipped with stairs and railings for entry and exit.
Home spa days are a good way to celebrate special occasions without leaving the house. If you don’t have a full-size Jacuzzi, even a small dose of hydrotherapy can help joint pain, arthritis and muscle tension. A face scrub or mask, bubble bath, scented candles and soothing music will add to the experience.
How to plan activities for the elderly
If you’re planning an activity for an older friend or family member, first consider what they like and will be able to enjoy doing. This might seem obvious, but a thoughtful plan includes considering a person’s willingness and ability to participate. It’s essential to keep any physical limitations in mind.
Then, outline a plan for the activity and share it with your loved one — even if it’s as simple as saying “Let’s do a puzzle today!” Building excitement and anticipation is an integral part of making an activity meaningful.
If the plan involves leaving the house, choose locations that have accessible, safe pathways or walkways. Make sure your elderly companion is dressed properly — sturdy shoes, sun protection, etc. Don’t forget any medications or health aids that might be needed during the outing.
During the activity, take measures to record the memories for sharing later — a camera (or phone) to take pictures works perfectly. Plan with a group and incorporate participants of various ages, if possible, to increase interaction and share the fun (and responsibility).
Planning activities for older adults with cognitive or mobility challenges requires consideration, but the benefits can be rewarding. Benefits can include an improved immune system, reduced risk of dementia and increased mobility.
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