Friends, family, favorite past times, learning and growing . . . these are just some of the things that make life meaningful. We all have to have something to look forward to, something that “floats our boat” or eventually we’ll just dread getting up in the morning.
Many older people have a harder time engaging with others and participating in activities they enjoy. For us caregivers, we can be facilitators and find those people and activities our older folks enjoy and to help make it happen.
More and more senior care facilities are thinking outside the box on what can make their residents happy. Sometimes it’s just simple things like good music, dabbling in painting, knitting, gardening and dancing. Just having something the elders enjoy brings a lot more quality to their lives.
Pets are another facet of life that brings joy to many. Therapy animals used to be delegated to just dogs. Not anymore! I’ve seen horses play a big role in engaging seniors. Many don’t ride them but give them a brushing or feed them some carrots. All the seniors who engage in horse therapy look forward to each visit. Animals and people can make such a positive connection.
Those miniature horses are now making the rounds at a lot of assisted living communities and now the tiny cows are coming on the scene. Chickens are also being kept at assisted livings and the seniors love tending them and gathering eggs. Raising the chickens together with their peers gives them more opportunities to get to know one another.
Having a calendar is important to seniors. Even if you’re tending them at home, putting a calendar on the refrigerator with at least one outing on it each week can remind your loved one that they’re going to do something special that week. It can be as simple as taking a drive for an ice cream cone, or a shopping trip to the mall. Just getting out and doing something different can brighten anyone’s day.
My parents like to take a drive up into the Sierra and look around at some of the old gold towns up there. They always stop for a bite to eat and momma loves those second-hand stores to browse in.
A few months ago, my best friend broke her leg and then had to have surgery on her ankle. It’s been a long recovery. It’s so hard for her to get around. But regardless, I do my best to get her out of the house at least once or twice a week. Even a trip to the dollar store can be fun when you’ve been immobile as long as she has.
Another trend in assisted living communities is to have college students live in the community. Their service to the elders is rewarded by giving them room and board. They spend time with the elders doing a number of activities and the older people love having them around.
What I hope to see in my own small community is a place where elders and pre-schoolers have day care side-by-side. Both the youngsters and the oldsters will enjoy the interaction. It’s hard to stay unhappy when you have those young faces smiling at you! Some communities have tried this with great success. They plan activities that both the seniors and the children can participate in together.
Most of our families have young people who would be such an asset to our elders. I know my parents both love visiting with their great-grandchildren. Now that we have teenagers in the family they have been a big help to my folks, helping with yard chores and just keeping them company.
However you can help your older loved one stay connected to others and enjoy engaging activities will make their lives so much brighter. Just knowing you are thinking about what they might like to do will be a blessing and I’m sure greatly appreciated.