Perform an online search for “activities for seniors” and you’re likely to find an assortment of crafts, games, memory stimulation puzzles, and of course, the requisite bingo. What you won’t find, unless you really search much more, are the meaningful, philanthropic activities that bring meaning to our lives. And yet, if you ask older adults what they’d most want to do, the majority of them won’t mention bingo, art projects and games. What they want most of all is to feel useful.
The University of Minnesota reveals details on how the most vulnerable times in our lives are our first year of life, and our first year following retirement. The loss of the sense of purpose discovered in a fulfilling occupation can result in significant health concerns – and even an earlier mortality rate, if that sense of purpose is not redefined in some way to allow the senior to experience an ongoing sense of being useful.
One highly powerful program, the Baltimore Experience Corps, matches older individuals with young children in schools that are understaffed, supplying them with the priceless chance to mentor, help with reading abilities, and serve as a warm and nonjudgmental pal to the children. And they are certainly 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 explains, “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 helping older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it could take a bit of innovation to determine engaging activities that promote their sense of purpose and meaning. Providing home care services in Fremont and the surrounding area, Visiting Angels offers the recommendations below to help get you started:
- Check out local and national agencies that assist those in need – veterans, the homeless, animals, women and children in poverty or crisis, etc.
- Determine if these organizations have any volunteer opportunities that older adults or those with cognitive impairment could help with, such as:
- Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that call for 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 older adults and family members could possibly prepare homemade pet treats together, or perhaps even take dogs for walks together or play with kittens.
- Assemble care packages for veterans or the homeless with travel-sized toiletries, snacks, etc.
- Work on coloring pages or other simple crafts together, letting the older adult know they will be given to a local domestic crisis facility to brighten the day for women and children.
- Make sure the older adult has opportunities to assist with as many tasks as possible around the home: sorting and folding laundry, shelling peas, setting the table – letting the person know how much his or her help is required and appreciated.
At Visiting Angels our Fremont 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 recommendations and suggestions on helping seniors maintain the highest quality of life, contact us any time at 510-284-0000.