It’s fantastically well documented these days that staying active and social offers a real boost for the ageing body and brain. However, when it falls to family and carers to drive activities for the elderly, knowing where to begin can feel a little uncertain! Putting some exciting dates on the calendar will encourage seniors to connect, have fun, and live a healthier lifestyle, but what should be considered when planning an event for the elderly? Here are some pointers that you can factor in as you plan activities for elderly people, as well as some stimulating activity ideas to inspire!
Who Is the Event for and What Do They Want?
The needs of our elders can be incredibly diverse, making it important to consider exactly who activities are destined to entertain. Of course, there are overarching themes, such as creating opportunities to socialise, to stimulate the mind, and to keep the body moving. Tailoring the activities you choose towards attendees specifically, however, will ensure that those who participate get the most out of any event.
A great place to start is with a sign-up sheet, in the weeks before, so that you can begin to form a sense of who you’re catering to. Once you’ve got a list of names, you can even take things further by asking participants’ opinions, providing options, or even sending out a survey! Of course, if you’re still scratching your head about which activity to even aim towards, asking those who will get to enjoy it is also never a bad idea.
Factors such as physical limitations or participants with dementia will inevitably steer the way activities are going to unfold. Planning for this means that you can provide everyone with a unique and proportionate experience. Some attendees may get more involved, while others may simply enjoy being present in the moment. For those with dementia in particular, incorporating music into activities can provide gentle stimulation.
Steer Clear of Patronising Attitudes and Activities
If you’ve ever tried to arrange activities for the elderly before and found that the uptake rate was far lower than you’d hopes, you’re not alone. An eye-opening study from the Royal Voluntary Service, called Shaping our Age, delved into senior participation in organised activities, and found that 6 out of 10 of those questioned didn’t attend events that were designed just for them. And why? Elderly respondents described sometimes feeling patronised, and not being sufficiently involved or valued.
This provides a powerful insight into how crucial it is to invite our elders to be part of the conversation when planning events and activities on their behalf. Our seniors can offer a great amount of wisdom and enthusiasm when the opportunity to add their voice is given. This can include consulting on what activities to try, what individuals want from the activity in question, and how they feel about it afterwards. By asking, we can ensure that each new iteration is better than the last!
Get Others Involved When You Can
Our elders don’t only benefit from contact with each other – there are many other age groups who benefit from contact with elders in their family and community.
Inviting others to participate in activities for the elderly can make them even more interesting for all attendees. Of course, this won’t be applicable to every activity or event, but from time to time there is value to reaching out to those outside of the care home or elderly community setting. Students, volunteers, and family members can foster a more diverse dynamic, providing senior participants with a chance to shine in a different way!
Equally important is inviting others to help you plan and coordinate activities. More minds mean new perspectives and more personalised attention once activities get under way. If arranging activities with fellow carers or care home staff, you can all work together to streamline events as they unfold. Getting together for a meeting ahead of time and creating a shared digital communication space will help you all stay on the same page.
Make Sure the Experience Lingers Through Memories
The value that activities provide to the elderly extend far beyond the enjoyment that they will experience when participating, and even the boost to their bodies and minds. Created memories, and the sense of having shared in something important can be a powerful resource for both morale and self-esteem.
Even those who struggle with memory loss can take great pleasure in showing pictures of themselves having fun to family members. Photographs are wonderful reminders that we are each part of something larger than ourselves and serve as reassuring anchors on bad days. Be sure to document activities and make sharing in those memories afterwards just as much of a feature of engaging as initial participation itself!
Elderly Event Ideas to Get You Started
When it comes to arranging activities for the elderly, there are happily so many more go-to options than bingo! This makes it easy to steer clear of clichés and keep things diverse – even providing options for the seniors you hope to cater to. Why not consider some of the following activity ideas:
• Arrange a book club for seniors.
• Get creative with an art class or jewellery making session.
• Try multi-player active video games with a Wii console, Xbox Kinect, or Playstation Move.
• Start a walking club around the neighbourhood or at a local park.
• Try gardening, either outdoors or indoors in pots, with decorative and edible plants.
• Harness the power of sound with live music or music therapy.
• Invite local artists or entrepreneurs to give mini talks.
• Head for a spa day, encouraging elders to hit the hot tub or steam room.
• Some companies offer pet therapy sessions for the elderly
• Consider if there are any field trip worthy locations nearby
• Scrapbooking can be a great exercise for seniors, as it helps them recall and preserve their memories.
So, there you have it! When it comes to organising activities for the elderly, more often than not it is our seniors who hold the most useful opinions. With some good ideas under your belt and their voice in mind, it should be possible to organise activities and events that everyone can enjoy.