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Fun doesn’t cost the earth: 5 low cost activities for the older generation

Spending time with a loved one who is getting older doesn’t have to be boring. Seniors love to take part in planned activities, just as we all do, and having something to do can make it easier to connect and enjoy each other’s company.

Activities for older people don’t have to be expensive or stressful either. Simple, low cost, high fun things can be just as entertaining, and can make it easy to have fun even if they are house bound or living with dementia. Work on finding things to do that aren’t targeted at children, as immature games can be disempowering for the older generation. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Flower arranging

Arranging flowers is a fun and fulfilling activity that all older people can enjoy. Grab some cheap cut flowers, or even artificial ones, a vase or pot and a couple of blocks of oasis, and get creating! This is particularly rewarding for people who used to love to garden but maybe are physically unable to do so anymore, and they get a beautiful memento of your visit to keep in their room too.

2. Biscuit decorating

This one’s a winner for anyone who loves to bake, and maybe doesn’t get the chance so often any more. Grab some plain biscuits (Rich Tea and Digestives are great) or a kit of un-decorated gingerbread men, and some decorative items with icing to stick them all together, and get stuck in. More dextrous seniors will enjoy using a piping bag to create beautiful designs, whereas those who struggle physically will still be able to have fun with sprinkles, smarties and chocolate chips.

3. Easy yoga

Keeping older people active and moving can do wonders for their self-esteem and physical fitness. Yoga is a wonderful exercise for strengthening those core muscles that will help to prevent a fall, and can be as challenging or as easy as it needs to be. There are plenty of DVD’s of yoga for older people on the market, as well as resources online to help you get started. It can even be done sitting in a chair, so no matter what your loved one’s physical fitness, they can join in and enjoy.

4. Find the pair game

Print out some images that your older adult likes, or even snaps of family members and pets. Have two copies of each, and mount them on coloured card, covering in laminate if you want to protect the pictures. These can be used as a ‘find the pair’ game, where you take turns to turn them over, or as simply a nice collection to flip through at other times.

5. Scrapbooking

Many older adults love to get crafty, but maybe their physical health prevents them from doing knitting, crochet or other activities they used to enjoy. Give them a chance to express themselves by starting a scrapbook project together. This could be the story of their life, it could be about places they’ve visited, or just about a topic they enjoy. If your loved one is living with dementia, this can be a valuable exercise to help keep them connected to the family, and a great resource that they can flip through when you’re not around.

Older people are still people, and they love to play and become engaged in activities, just like the rest of us do. Remember to put safety first; use plastic instead of glass if they are likely to drop something, and take care of any sharp objects if their hands are less reliable than they used to be. Creating activities that suit their abilities will help them remain cognitively active, and can help reduce the more challenging behaviours often borne from frustration. 

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