8 Activities That Can Help To Keep Your Aging Parents Mentally And Physically Healthy

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Your aging parents may not be able to do absolutely everything they were formerly able to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to totally give up on learning new skills.  Mental and physical activity can help to improve the quality of life and health of your parents, help them to live longer, and ensure that they always have interesting things to do.

The physical activity guidelines from the CDC are identical for all adults, no matter what their age is, which suggests that you can never be too old for exercise. Even seniors who are sedentary can become active later in life, and possibly become even more fit compared to when they were younger and in their prime. The following are some options to help keep your aging parent’s active no matter what age they are.  

Yoga

Yoga provides gentle stretching that helps to alleviate stiffness, tension, and muscle pain. For sedentary individuals, it is an excellent introduction to physical activity.  Even for veteran athletes, it is an effective antidote for stress and a great cool-down.  Seniors with mobility issues or injuries often can modify their yoga poses so that those limitations can be worked around.    

Water Aerobics

Doing water aerobics can help you burn a lot of calories, but without suffering all of the joint pain associated with jumping rope, running, and other types of aerobic exercises. There are classes ranging from basic movements up to competitive aerobics and swimming, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find an activity at any level, no matter what great athletic ability or activity level your parents have. For class offerings, contact your university, gym or local senior center.    

Low-Impact Sports Courses

Instructional courses in dance, golf, and other types of low-impact sports provide excellent ways for challenging the bodies and minds of your parents. These classes make excellent birthday and Christmas gifts. They also can encourage a parent who is otherwise shy to get outside and start meeting new people and moving.

Outdoor Clubs and Activities

Spending time outdoors provides access to the natural vitamin D from the sun – which is a very powerful weapon for fighting against osteoporosis. It can fight depression as well. For those seniors who hate to exercise, nature’s beauty can be a great incentive to keep people moving. Those are a couple of options to help aging parents become a lot more active outdoors:

Gardening. If gardening is something that your parents like to do, investing in tools can help to make gardening easier, like raised beds that can be tended to while standing.  You can also consider purchasing your parents a membership to a botany class or garden club.

Senior hiking and walking clubs. With clubs now available for every fitness and experience level, you should be able to find the ideal fit in the neighborhood where your parents live.

Outdoor travel.  Seniors who are in fairly good health might love to rent an RV to do some low-key camping or try investing in “glamping,” the latest camping trend.  Instead of having to sleep on the ground, purchase a cabin out in the wild or week inside of a yurt for your parents.

Arts and Crafts

Scrapbooking, jewelry-making, knitting, painting, and other arts and crafts are mentally challenging and can be adapted to practically all experience levels. Help your parents strengthen and preserve your parents’ fine motor skills since they will be doing something that they can do on a daily basis. Your parents can either enjoy their hobby from home or join a group to socialize. There are options to encourage your parents to do hobbies – or help them find new ones:    

Purchase your parents a craft group membership or class as a gift.  If you spent your money on it they will be more likely to actually use it.

Find ways for adapting the beloved hobbies of your parents to their present ability levels.  For example, if your moth loves to do beadwork but has problems with the tiny pieces, you can enroll her in a course for a different kind of jewelry-making.

Ask if your parents will teach you how to do something. If there is a craft that your parents have really mastered like needlepoint or woodworking, you might as well turn it into a family tradition. That recommendation can help seniors who are feeling irrelevant or isolated to feel more useful instead. If they have abandoned the hobby recently, it also can revitalize their interest in the hobby that they loved at one time.

Social Clubs, Church, and Other Activities    

One thing that can really encourage seniors to start moving, find new hobbies, and adopt new perspectives is spending time with other people. So don’t overlook the value of activities such as a church or social clubs, to help get your parents out of their home.

If both or one of your parents has not found the ideal fit yet for their social needs, encourage them to consider some of the ideas below:

  • Join a senior book club
  • Join their church senior group
  • Senior volunteer day
  • Renewing a commitment to a certain cause that they care about, like a local political party
  • Local senior center membership   

Travel

Retirement is an excellent time for travel as long as your parents are in good health; this encourages them to do some exploring.  Many organizations provide senior-specific travel tours and opportunities. Adventures Abroad offers active, adventurous seniors numerous opportunities to meet up with like-minded peers.  A senior cruise is an even less demanding option.

Your parents are always going to need entertainment and stimulation, even when aging does pose certain challenges for those needs.  So work closely with them and help them find activities that provide them with an outlet. Keep in mind that just because your parent is a senior doesn’t mean that they have to do “senior” activities.  However, if they are passionate about something already, find ways to get that interest expanded, or change it to accommodate the changing abilities of your parents.

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