Many times persons think that having their elderly loved one in front of the television is sufficient to keep them engaged. However, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, recreation is very important for the elderly, for a number of reasons.
Benefits of Recreation for the Elderly
We were created to be active beings. This does not change with age. Activity helps with circulation, improves cognitive functions (thinking, reasoning, memory, etc), and increases all-around wellness. Elderly persons who are engaged in meaningful recreation may have a boost in confidence as they experience a feeling of purpose; it may reduce behavioral problems in persons with Dementia and decrease inflammation with physical activity such as exercises.
Recreation for the elderly improves inter-personal relationships as they engage with their caregivers and family members; it provides a boost of self-esteem as they experience a feeling of belonging. It also promotes self-care and independence.
Classification of Recreation Activities
Let us look at the classification and some examples, so you can get some ideas as to the types of recreation that may interest your elderly relative.
Play – Games such as board games, chess, “snakes and ladders”
Sports – Such as bowling, miniature golf, exercising
Arts and Culture – Attending theatre, visiting a museum, playing an instrument
Crafts – Engaging in handicraft – making cards, pottery, knitting
Hobbies – Collecting antiques, baking, gardening
Socializing – Attending informal or casual gatherings, online events
Choosing an activity best for the elderly
Some factors must be considered before selecting recreation for the elderly. Consider:
- Physical activities – be realistic with the recreation you chose for the elderly. If they have mobility issues and you select a recreation that needs a lot of movement, they would feel bad and frustrated.
- Medical Condition – be very aware of all restrictions listed by their doctor and abide by it strictly. You could be jeopardizing your loved one’s life if you do not follow the doctor’s orders.
- Likes and Dislikes – make sure you do not force your elderly relative to do something that they dislike. Engaging them in activities they like will not only be of greater benefit to them but get them to cooperate in the activity with great anticipation.
- Available Resources – know what is available. It is very disheartening to plan to do an activity, only to realize you do not have the relevant materials/equipment or resources. Don’t disappoint your relative. Find out first, then plan.
- Skill set – knowing your elderly relative’s skills and their strengths and designing recreational activities around it is the best way to engage them in healthy activity. They can show off their skills and get a great confidence boost.
- What they want to do – maintain independence by allowing your elderly relative to choose the activity for the day. Offer at least three options and let them select the one of their liking on that day. Remember they may get bored doing the same thing every day
- Space/Place – make sure you have the space or place to do the activity. Do not plan a make shift miniature golf course if you don’t have the space to do it. Also, if you have to prepare a space for the activity, do it before you start the recreation or get your elderly relative to help prepare the space if it won’t be inconvenient to them.
It can be a lot of fun selecting the right activity, and it is advised to include your elderly relative in the process as much as possible. Keep it simple, engaging, inexpensive, and fun. It is a great time for bonding and appreciating your loved ones while they are still here. Do not just look for activities you can leave them to do on their own. Make a commitment to spend time with them. And remember conversations while you actively listen is a very valuable activity for the elderly. They have a lot to share and are always willing to share it.
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