Keeping active, both physically and mentally is vital as we age. The importance of exercise is well researched – we all know that keeping active, fit and healthy has a positive impact on our overall health and well-being. However, keeping the mind active can also have profound benefits. Through exercising the brain, we can improve brain health by building reserves of healthy brain cells and the connections between them. The link between exercising the brain and a reduced risk of developing dementia has the been the subject of considerable research, and an active brain is thought to maintain memory and reduce deterioration of the brain.
Regular physical activity for the elderly can help reduce the risk of falling, improve bone density, reduce the risk of a heart attack or a stroke, increase independence and confidence through improving functional reach and balance, and promote positive mental health and well-being.
Being active and taking part in activities can also provide an opportunity for socialisation, which in turn can lead to less feelings of isolation, so commonly experienced in older people. Meeting with like-minded people to share a common interest and participate in activities that are meaningful, can really have a positive impact on a persons’ emotional and psychological health.
There are many risk factors associated with not keeping active as we age. Inactivity can cause the following conditions:
Whether you are a family carer supporting a loved one, or a professional carer providing a live-in care service it is important that you have a plan of activities, to keep the person you care for stimulated and enable them to reap the health benefits from being active.
Our professional carers are trained to understand how to encourage their clients to remain as active as possible, and they know how to organise activities for the elderly that meet their preferences and wishes, whilst facilitating lots of socialisation, whether that be in the home or out in their community. As part of our comprehensive care planning process, we capture all the activities you or your loved one wishes to participate in, and your carer will facilitate and support you to do all you want. They will also actively encourage you to try new things to make life stimulating and enjoyable.
The importance of physical activity
Whether it is a stroll around the park, a relaxing swim or a simple exercise routine at home, there are many suitable activities for the elderly that can deliver increased levels of fitness and improve health, confidence and co-ordination. Being physically active also stimulates mood and self-esteem boosting overall emotional and psychological well-being.
Ideas for physical activities in the elderly include:
Walking is a low impact exercise that most older people can enjoy to remain active and physically fit. It also provides many benefits to overall well-being from being outside and enjoying fresh air. A regular brisk walk has been shown to reduce risk of obesity, improve strength, promote a better sleep, improve cardiovascular health and fight illness.
Swimming is a perfect way to exercise for the elderly, mainly because there is little risk of an injury and, like walking it is low impact. It also works out all the muscle groups in the body offering a total workout, whilst delivering clear health benefits, including reducing risk of osteoarthritis, improving heart health, increasing flexibility, improving muscle tone and strength and boosting mood.
Agility is closely linked to a reduction in falls in the elderly, so exercises that promote free and swift movement that train adaptive body responses are good for older people. Agility training improves flexibility, balance and control, whilst helping the body maintain posture and alignment. Examples of agility exercises that are suitable for older people include aerobics and Pilates, and classes can be a great way to socialise with others.
It is important as we age to maintain muscle strength so we can continue to live independently. There are several moderate exercises that older people can do safely and at their own pace, including light weights (arm and leg) and resistance bands (which are available in different intensities). You do not need to make strength training strenuous, simply walking round the house with ankle weights or a resistance band can have a profound effect on building muscle strength over time. Also, weight exercises can be done comfortable sitting down.
Other strength exercises you can do, and can be built into day-to-day life include:
Carrying heavy shopping bags
Mental activities for the elderly
There are many compelling benefits to older people by keeping their mind active, including positive mental health and well-being, maintaining cognitive ability, promoting socialisation and reducing isolation. Good mental health and well-being is a contributing factor to maintaining independence as we age.
It is important if you are looking after a loved one that you think about how to organise activities for the elderly that stimulate their brain and come up with ideas for activities for the elderly that provide enjoyment.
Below is a list of suitable activities that can maintain cognitive function and brain health, whilst providing an opportunity for much-needed enjoyment and fun:
Cognitive activities for the elderly
Reading – and then retelling the story as part of a group
Arts and crafts – boost creative thinking
Chess – this boost planning skills
Puzzles / Sudoku / Trivia Games – stimulates the mind and creative perception
Baking activities for the elderly – a fun way to boost practical skills and creativity
Video games and brain training apps – good for stimulation and practical thinking
Bingo – stimulates the three senses; touch, sight and hearing
Learn a new skill, for example a new language either using a book or an audio book
Games for those living with dementia
If you are living with dementia or any form of memory loss, keeping the mind active is even more important. Lack of stimulation and boredom can present challenges and cause negative behaviour patterns, for example frustration and irritability.
Activities for elderly living with dementia should foster positive memories from the past, stimulate emotional connection, engage them in everything that is positive about life and encourage them to express themselves.
Examples of suitable activities for those living with dementia include:
Music activity for elderly adults, including dancing – this can stimulate emotional responses and be relaxing and soothing.
Reminiscence activities – looking at photo albums, watching family videos, visiting places with memories in your local community are some examples of positive reminiscence.
Out in the community – getting out in the fresh air visiting places of interest can be both engaging and relaxing as an activity.
Animal therapy – this is very powerful for people living with dementia as it stimulates emotional connection and aids relaxation.
Card and board games – there are a several games created for people who are living with dementia to stimulate cognitive function including:
Jumbo slide-slot bingo cards – these enlarged bingo cards are perfect for those living with dementia as are easy to follow and all the family can use.
Marble mazes – these hand-held marble games are suitable for those who have visual or dexterity difficulties.
Call to Mind – this is a board game designed to encourage conversions and stimulate memories for those living with dementia, combatting boredom and irritation.
Unforgettable and Puzzler – this 140-page book includes puzzles and activities, including crosswords, nostalgia and much more specifically designed for those living with dementia to stimulate the mind and conversation.
How The Good Care Group can help?
For families who are considering long-term care for a loved one, you will no doubt be thinking about where your loved one should receive that care. Many will naturally consider a care home where there is likely to a comprehensive programme of activities from your loved one to enjoy. However, there are many benefits to receiving one-to-one live-in care from a trained and dedicated carer who enables your loved one to enjoy activities that are meaningful to them, not just a group of people.
We will match a carer team to your loved one to meet not just your care needs, but to provide companionship, socialisation and emotional support. This can involve simple providing much-needed company, avoiding feelings of isolation but can also entail facilitating and taking part in activities, helping you to maintain hobbies both in and out of the home, going away with you on holiday or driving and chaperoning you to appointments or social events.
As part of our comprehensive care planning process, we will ensure any hobbies, activities and social engagements that you wish to regularly participate in are included in your care plan, which will be regularly reviewed by your dedicated care manager in line with your care needs.
The care we provide is flexible and our carer will be on hand to provide gentle encouragement to try new activities that may make your life more stimulating and enjoyable. Our trained dementia carers understand which activities are suitable for those living with dementia and use best practice tools and techniques to help maintain cognitive function. They aim to make life engaging and interesting, significantly reducing feelings of low mood, frustration and anxiety sometimes associated with the condition.
Case study – an approach to activities for elderly who are living with dementia
When Elizabeth first started working with her client Mrs S, she had been under the care of an hourly provider and had been receiving three visits a day. This had left Mrs S on her own for much of the day which was not meeting her care needs. So, Mrs S transitioned to The Good Care Group. To gain a better understanding of her client’s needs Elizabeth liaised with Mrs S’s Power of Attorney, her niece and nephew, who provided a wealth of information about her new client.
Elizabeth, like all our professional carers likes to build a picture of their client, of the activities they used to enjoy, the life they lived, the music they listened to and their fond memories. All this information helps our professional carers build a relationship with their client.
Mrs S has advanced dementia, so Elizabeth used her knowledge to communicate with her in a non-verbal way. Mrs S used to play the piano and had a book of her favourite manuscripts. Elizabeth used this to create a playlist of these songs for Mrs S to listen to. Elizabeth also purchased an Amazon Echo, with the agreement of Mrs S’s family, to listen to these tunes, as well as make video calls so she kept connected with her family and friends.
Elizabeth also supported Mrs S to her day care centre visits. Here, she discovered that Mrs S liked to paint with watercolours. So, Elizabeth started painting with Mrs S, as well as providing other stimulating activities, like picture books.
Having taken the time to understand Mrs S’s emotional needs and personal preferences, it enabled Elizabeth to deliver a truly individualised care plan. Elizabeth explains how she learnt how to let Mrs S engage with her first:
“Mrs S is quite used to being in her own company, so I try to wait for her to come and engage with me, rather than deciding what time we are going to do activities. This way she is much happier to try new things. However, her attention span is short and her memories of how to do these things are fading, so I make suggestions or tell her what I am up to so that she doesn’t get anxious and can copy me without feeling pressured into remembering.”
Ideas for activities for the elderly – useful resources
There are several useful online resources to help you organise an activity programme: