When we think of caregiving, it is often about ensuring that our loved ones’ physical needs such as safety, food and hygiene are met.
But, what about their psychological well-being?
A recent study shows that seniors who are more engaged socially, are less likely to show a decline in activities of daily living.
Before we lose the ability to communicate with our loved ones, it’s important for us to continually find ways to engage them.
We can change the way that we administer care by injecting fun activities into our routines.
Here are 17 activities to get you started on this journey!
Opt for Tabletop Activities
Table top activities are ideal for seniors who are less mobile as it requires very minimal upper body movement, while being easy to facilitate with a set of structured rules for the group to follow along.
Some popular table top games to play with seniors include Snakes & Ladders, Chess, Checkers or Scrabble. For the local table top games, try Hua Hee, Five Stones, Country Erasers or Kuti-Kuti.
Activities To Improve Cognitive Function
Cognitive engagement activities can serve multiple functions including serving as a positive distraction, improving moods and enhancing coping efficacy – all of which can help to enhance a senior’s wellbeing and reduce their health problems. Conditions like dementia or anxiety can be improved with memory games that challenge and improve mental alertness
Puzzles are great for self-enrichment and aiding in problem-solving skills, especially for seniors who want a sense of control and taking charge of something without the need of a caregiver by their side.
Not forgetting that sense of accomplishment when they’ve placed in the final piece to the puzzle! When deciding which puzzles to prepare for seniors, go for easy-to-piece puzzles with pictures that are colourful, easy on the eye or familiar scenes like holidays or the different seasons.
A popular local game to keep the brain supercharged, Mahjong’s tile-matching game not only helps to regain physical agility in the arms when they rearrange or discard tiles, it also helps to keep the mind more mentally sharp while aiming to complete a set. It’s a low-cost leisure activity that is great for nurturing social interactions and mental training.
3. Card Games
Card games are so versatile, involving as many people at once and can be played anywhere. It’s a great way to socialise, easy to pick up and keep the mind razor-sharp. Some of the more popular games to try include Bridge, Jin Rummy, Go Fish, or local ones like Huahee Matchoonary, Huahee Snap, Happy Family or Old Maid.
When choosing card games for seniors, you might want to consider using large-sized playing cards with large prints or fonts that is friendly for the eyes and hands of seniors.
4. Draw On Your Head Game
As strange as the name of the game sounds, this is one of the more exciting activities that will be sure to energise the group and get everyone laughing no matter how great their drawing skills are.
Plus, it’s a great game to improve the motor skills and hand-eye coordination. To begin, each participant will need to hold a paper plate on their heads and follow along to the instructions given to draw!
– Draw a line
– Draw three circles on top of the line
– Draw a sun on the top left
Activities For Creativity and Freedom of Expression
Therapeutic recreation can contribute to the health and happiness of seniors, especially when it involves their commitment, personal views and meaningful affirmation of valued self-attributes.
5. String Art Ice-cream
DIY activities especially art that you can take home is a fun way to inculcate your own personal flair while at the same time creating something tangible you can share with family or friends, or as a gift idea. This string art ice-cream can be cultivated as a month-long project, where individuals can regularly come in to string in each segment based on the colour scheme they’ve chosen for the ice-cream. Though this activity requires more preparation and careful guidance, it’s a really great activity to showcase one’s skills and aptitude.
Painting is a great diversion activity for seniors and a channel for expressing their inner most thoughts and emotions. Besides improving hand-eye coordination and serving as an occupational therapy, creating art can help with self-empowerment too. Types of painting activities include acrylic, watercolour or oil painting.
For seniors with moderate to severe dementia with issues using a paint brush, you can perhaps hand them a sponge or get them to engage in finger painting.
A fun and easy activity to learn, cross-stitching is great for improving one’s concentration skills and hand eye coordination.
It’s a great project that can keep individuals occupied for months while patiently stitching the thread onto the canvas. There are varying cross-stitch kits with patterns, shapes or photos, designed for both the elderly and beginners.
8. Folding Origami
Complete with a set of instructions and a multitude of crafts you can make, folding origami is a practical activity that can be repurposed as wall art.
It’s a wonderful hobby that can be undertaken solo or in a group with many benefits – resulting in a three dimensional form with just a piece of paper!
It also hones imagination and creativity skills as they create their colourful masterpieces.
For Greater Social Interaction & Relationship Building
Having company is often overlooked – since most of their day-to-day needs or recovery is done in isolation. One of the most effective ways we can help to alleviate their feelings of isolation or frustration is by simply showing up and providing companionship in a group setting!
9. Pass The Cling Wrap Ball
This group activity is an easy game to start while having the excitement of a prize at the end! Before you start this game, make the cling wrap ball first!
Prepare loads of cling wrap and prizes.
- Start by wrapping one prize up.
- Add another prize in the second layer
- Continue adding other layers and other prizes in between the layers
You can make it as big as you want!
Start by getting everyone seated in a circle and give one person a cling wrap ball, while the person to their left has a bowl and dice.
The objective – completely unwrap the cling wrap ball to reveal a prize, while the person on the left tries to roll doubles to get their turn!
There are many variations to this game and it’s ton of fun that requires very little lower mobility.
10. Drum Circles
A fun idea to entice movement and rhythm in a group setting is by oragnising drum circles!
Besides the rhythmic motion to dance or groove to, playing musical instruments can help to improve their mental alertness while reigniting their passion for music.
It’s also a great idea to bring in various types of drums like bongos, buffalo drums, congas – utilising the different sounds, shapes or percussion instruments that everyone can try.
You can get seniors to make their own shaker instruments by putting beans into sealed water bottles too!
‘Pic’-a-box’ is a fun activity that focuses on self-discovery and reminiscing through shared experiences.
Start by giving one person in the room a box filled with random pictures of the past, and get them to pull out a random picture and share anything that comes to mind.
For example, pictures of old buildings or kampong estates, food like kueh lapis or ang ku kueh, or games like gasing (spinning top) or five stones — remembering the things we enjoyed in our younger days are often fond memories to look back on.
This game can be done with Huahee Matchoonary too.
12. Horse Racing Game
This rendition of the horse racing game is a fun activity for the elderly in nursing homes or assisting living. Start by having everyone in a line as the ‘horses’ in the race.
Then, give each each person the chance to throw a live-sized dice, followed by moving the number of spaces corresponding to the number on the dice.
This is followed through by the rest of the group, until someone reaches the finishing line first!
13. Name 5
The ‘Name 5’ game is a simple mind-stretching game that serves as a great ice-breaker game with no set up required.
Start by giving a subject, and the group has to name five items for that subject! Some ideas for categories include favourite food, MRT stations, places in Singapore etc.
Other variations of this game is called ‘Word Chain’, where the player starts by saying a word, and the group has to name another word that relates to the previous word ie. (Ocean – beach – sandcastles – mat – picnic – apples).
14. What’s In The Bag?
This is a great guessing game that can help to engage train problem-solving skills. Choose a colourful bag and put in random objects to guess like coins, utensils, keys, clothes pegs etc. You can also switch it up and place in objects that are reminiscent from their past for a more meaningful experience.
Light exercises such as going for walks, aqua jogging or seated chair exercises have multiple benefits like improved mobility, joint flexibility, agility, balance and much more. Here are some other activities to make it more fun and exciting!
Big groups can engage in these activities that require more upper body movement.
15. Balloon Volleyball
The rules are simple, keep the balloon in the air!
Besides challenging their agility, balloon volleyball is an engaging activity that can help seniors relive their younger days and evoke feelings of pure child-like joy.
It’s a fun activity that fosters relationships while improving the mental and emotional well-being.
16. Seated Noodle Hockey or Floorball
A twist from the classic sport, Noodle Hockey/Floorball can be played seated making it ideal for seniors with low mobility. Start by giving out different coloured pool noodle floating aids to each team (to serve as the sticks) which you can get from Daiso, and line the participants in a row on each side.
You can use soft plastic beach balls or balloons as the puck, and get each team to score a goal at the end! To make it even more exciting, toss in a few balls or balloons at once and watch the adrenaline kick in!
17. Beanbag Toss
Prepare different sized baskets and assign points to each basket. The smaller baskets would be more difficult and thus, have higher points.
In this game of bean bag toss, seniors can score points by getting their bean bags to land in the basket with varying target sizes. It can be played both standing or sitting and are particularly suitable for those who may not be intrinsically motivated to get some exercise.
With so many different ability levels, it can be easily adjusted for seniors to work on different skills like balance, upper lifting, hand balance and target aiming.
Keith Jonathan is a thrill-seeker and adrenaline junkie who makes the best of his creative misdirection in his narrative. When he’s not chasing the dream of a wanderlust adventure, he enjoys spending his time dabbling in unsolved mysteries, conspiracy theories and paranormal pursuits.