Search the Internet for “activities for seniors” and you’re likely to find a variety of crafts, games, memory stimulation puzzles, and of course, the requisite bingo. What you won’t find, unless you really search further, are the meaningful, philanthropic activities that bring purpose to our lives. And yet, if you ask seniors what they’d most like to do, most of them won’t mention bingo, crafts and games. What they want most is to feel useful.
The University of Minnesota shares details on how the most vulnerable times in our lives are our first year of life, and our first year following retirement. Losing the sense of meaning found in a fulfilling career can result in serious health concerns – and even an earlier mortality rate, if that sense of purpose isn’t redefined in some way to allow the individual to experience an ongoing sense of being needed.
One highly successful program, the Baltimore Experience Corps, matches older adults with young children in schools that are understaffed, providing them with the priceless opportunity to mentor, help with reading skills, and serve as a warm and nonjudgmental friend to the children. And they’re 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 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 working with older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it may take a bit of creativity to discover engaging activities that enhance their sense of purpose and meaning. Caregivers by WholeCare of Tennessee shares the following ideas to help get you started:
- Look into local and national organizations that benefit those in need – veterans, the homeless, animals, women and children in poverty or crisis, etc.
- Check to see if these organizations have any volunteer opportunities that seniors or those with cognitive impairment could assist with, such as:
- Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that require folding, cutting, and stapling lengths of ribbon to cards for distribution.
- Pet shelters and humane societies are often in need of donated towels and blankets that can be cleaned and folded at home; or seniors and family members could bake homemade pet treats together, or perhaps 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 simple crafts together, letting the senior know they will be given to a local domestic crisis facility to cheer up the day for women and children.
- Ensure the senior has opportunities to assist with as many tasks as possible around the home: sorting and folding laundry, snapping beans, setting the table – letting the senior know how much his or her help is needed and appreciated.
At Caregivers by WholeCare, our Tennessee home care services go beyond just providing care in the home; our caregivers are dedicated to helping seniors live lives filled with meaning and purpose. For more tips and suggestions on helping older adults maintain the highest quality of life, contact us any time at (615) 997-1288.