“My mum, 72 years old now, had a pretty active social and physical life. She was always up and down with one activity after the other. I can’t quite tell what my mum’s hobby was because there was a hobby for each season of her life. Pretty much, she was an active lady and thanks to her, we all ended up in creative careers. But ever since old age caught up with her, she has slowly started losing interest in all her hobbies. She no longer wants to socialize with people and prefer reading her bible or watching TV all day. She has also become very withdrawn and prefers not to be engaged in lengthy conversations.
At first, we let her do what she wanted but later realized she was sinking deeper into her own world and something had to be done. We then embarked on finding what the problem was for her sudden disinterest and how we could help.”
Such are the stories we hear often and well, we honestly can’t blame our aged loved ones for lacking the interest to do anything. They are dealing with a handful of mental and physical changes that makes them tired most of the time. And even worse if they have mobility challenges or other medical conditions. It is no wonder most just prefer to sleep most hours of the day or sit and watch TV. However, in as much they are tired and lack motivation it is detrimental to their health to have them do nothing. This is why we need to find ways to motivate them to participate in activities and hobbies.
Why do they need to stay involved?
Seniors need to be involved in activities if not for their physical health then for their mental health. Idleness leads to boredom, loneliness and eventually depression. Depression at a later stage in life is very difficult to deal with as well as come out of. A senior who is involved in social activities is generally happy, cheerful, physically healthy and has mental clarity.
On the other hand, seniors who stay idle all day are moody, lonely, depressed, and prone to mental illnesses and other health conditions. Whether mobile or not, there are plenty of activities that they can get involved in. A good place to start off is to reignite their hobbies and passions. If they are no longer interested in their hobbies, you can always introduce other activities that they may enjoy. Here are the perfect activities for seniors:
Best activities for active and physically fit seniors
- The list is endless
Best activities for seniors with mobility challenges
- Hosting friends and family
- Creatives- painting, drawing, beadwork, card making, sculpting
- Board games
- Listening to music
- Watching TV (of course for a regulated amount of time only)
For social engagement, they can participate in charitable activities, join book clubs, cooking clubs, gardening clubs, walking, among other volunteer activities available for seniors. There are also clubs formed to promote socialization among seniors such as the Red hat society and silver sneakers. Red hat society is a group for 50+ women who are looking to find friends and social events in their local areas. They tend to have social gatherings all through the year. Silver Sneakers is a fitness program for seniors that is provided by over 60 health insurance plans at no cost. It is aimed at encouraging seniors to maintain their physical health.
Social engagement is very important as it makes elders feel loved, appreciated and important to others. But even with all these available social activities and hobbies, it may still be a challenge for a senior to just want to participate. How then can you motivate them to get engaged in any of them?
This is how:
Develop adaptive and flexible coping skills
As a person ages, it is only obvious that they not only become but feel less independent and experience physical and cognitive limitations. This is the main cause of their lack of interest in doing what they used to once love and enjoy. Pain, discomfort, anxiety, depression and constant fatigue are among other reasons. The great news is that there is a way out of these.
1) Is to have them do a few tasks each day. As they accomplish one they move to the next. This will make them not feel overwhelmed.
2) Break down the tasks to small manageable mini-tasks. This will make them feel accomplished and less tired after each task.
3) Find alternative ways of doing tasks or coping with the limitations. My mum loved to garden but when she got to 63 she couldn’t bend anymore and her knees would hurt if she tried kneeling to tend to her small garden. After a couple of struggles, she stopped gardening altogether. We then got her a pair of garden kneelers and after trying them out she once again started gardening.
There are so many adaptive aids and coping skills to a lot of limitations that seniors may experience.
Create a workable and practical daily routine
Young or old, routines work best. They give a natural flow of the day and make the day well structured. You wake up knowing what to expect and what to do. Waking up and not knowing what you should do the next hour or the rest of the day is frustrating and often leads to one not doing anything at all. For seniors, routines make them able to remember all the things they need to do in a day like take their medicine, shower or even take their daily walks and naps. A few pointers though, when creating a routine for a senior:
- Base it around their abilities and mobility
- Make it flexible
- Make it adjustable to their varying needs from time to time
- It shouldn’t vary so much form their current activities so that they have an easy time adjusting
- Consider their likes
- Consider the available resources
The best thing about a routine is that it makes seniors feel secure, grounded and motivated. It also reduces stress and anxiety which is the main cause of their lack of interest in just about any activity.
Here is a sample of a routine for a 60-90-year-old
- Wake up
- Activity time – 90 minutes
- Rest time
- Activity time – 30 minutes
- Dinner time
- Sleep time
When creating a routine, it is important that you minimize the amount of time they spend on each activity. For an energy-consuming activity, 30 minutes is the most ideal time to allocate. Enjoyable activities like watching TV can be as long as 2 hours or even longer as long as its a show they really do enjoy. Always include activities that promote their personal purpose, independence, health and fitness, creativity and fun.
Join them in their activity
The other way to keep them motivated to participate in their daily tasks is to join them in their projects. This will encourage them and make them feel more inclined to perform the tasks every other time so they can get to spend time with you. Be careful though, not to come off as too helpful. This may make them feel that they are not able to do the task that’s why you are helping.
Make them feel useful around the house
We all want to feel important and useful and the more useful we feel we are the more motivated we are to performing even more tasks. There are so many ways to make them feel useful. You can ask for their opinion on how to do certain tasks. You can ask for their help in fixing someone or completing a project, or you can put them in charge of certain tasks. All these will make them want to participate.
Work with what they enjoy doing
Sometimes it’s just wise to go by their place and work with that they love doing. Unlike outgoing people, introverts are naturally not into outdoor activities or social activities, and this doesn’t change in old age either. If your loved one prefers to sit in a corner and read a book or knit, leave them to that. It’s their way of unwinding and after all, they still engage their minds in the silence of it it all. If your loved one is passionate about bike riding, doing cookouts, swimming, let them be. We all look forward to doing what we love most.
Start an activity and ask them to join in
This is different from joining them. In this case, you are asking for their help. You could start an activity that they like and midway ask them for their help. Of course, this is a way to get them to be involved. The trick here is to start an activity that they not only like but enjoy doing and would be willing to jump right in.
Tell them of the benefits of them being involved
If all else fails, sit them down and have a very candid conversation with them about the benefits of being physically involved in activities. Once they know the benefits they will most definitely want to make an effort. It won’t take long before they get something they once again enjoy doing and before you know it they’ve included it into their daily routine. They will eventually see that you genuinely cared about their health and that you were not just pushing them around.
Keeping seniors motivated is a continuous process. This is mainly because their reasons for lack of motivation will keep shifting as they progress with their old age. With the few ways we have discussed, you should be sure of keeping them engaged for quite some time, especially if you create a very workable routine that is based on their interests. Keep in mind that it is about them doing what they can and not necessarily what they should do. This is the best place to start with.