Our relationships make us who we are. They inspire us, comfort us, and occasionally challenge us. We need our relationships more than ever as we age, yet about 40 percent of seniors report feeling lonely. Loneliness can lead to depression, sleep problems, and worsening health. One study found that the dangers of loneliness were as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Strong relationships are the solution, but sustaining these relationships can be difficult—especially if your loved ones live far away or enjoy activities you’re no longer able to do.
Don’t give up. The right family activities are fun for everyone, from perennially bored kids to stressed adults. These fun activities for seniors are great for the whole family:
Computer and Smartphone Games
If your family can’t regularly visit, games are a great way to bridge the gap. Instead of lamenting how much time young people spend on smartphones, try embracing it and playing together. The younger members of your family will appreciate the chance to play teacher, and you might be surprised by how much you like playing digital games.
Word games can keep your mind sharp, and building games support spatial reasoning well into your golden years. Words With Friends is a word puzzle game similar to Scrabble that allows you to play with family and friends no matter where they are. Want to help build a new world with tiny puzzle pieces? Then team up with loved ones for a game of Minecraft.
Family Photography Project
Photography can capture a moment in time exactly as it looked and felt to the people who lived it. Try hiring a photographer for a family photo session in your favorite park. Then work together to pick your favorites, and put together a family scrapbook—either online, on paper, or both.
Many families love spending time in nature, but differences in abilities can turn hikes into sources of frustration. Try planning a long family hike along a trail that has good picnic locations. Seniors and young children can hike until they get tired and then have a picnic while other family members complete the trail.
Seniors can buy lifetime passes to parks administered by the National Park Service for just $80. The pass offers access to special programs, as well as discounts on some park amenities.
Family Book Club
Reading is great for everyone in the family. Try planning a monthly family book club. Older family members can read stories to children who don’t yet read. Then, after everyone has read the book, you can have a family discussion about the story. You might even try doing a family craft based on the story. Make sure every family member gets a chance to suggest a book they love.
Family Game Night
Family game night can be fun for even the youngest family members, who may enjoy games such as Candyland, Cooties, Chutes and Ladders, and Mr. Bucket. For a more competitive game night that will appeal to older kids, try games such as Risk, Battleship, Scrabble, or Bananagrams. Consider making family game night a recurring family event. Invite friends and order takeout to make the mood even more festive.
You’re never too old to learn how to make something with your hands. Try taking a craft class with your child or grandchild. Local craft stores may offer free or discounted classes. Senior centers, preschools, local art museums, and art shops are also excellent resources.
Gardening can be tailored to just about every age and ability level. Try making a simple succulent garden with a school-aged grandchild. Seniors with limited mobility might enjoy indoor hydroponic gardening with the Aerogarden. Outdoor gardening is a great chance to nurture a plant from seed to harvest. Get even more out of your garden by drying herbs together, making dinner with the squash or lettuces you harvest, or learning how to harvest and save seeds for next year. In the winter, young children may enjoy garden-themed crafts, such as painting a wooden garden sign or birdhouse.
Cooking and Baking
Making food is a valuable life skill that seniors can pass onto their grandchildren. Teach kids a favorite family recipe or make holiday-themed cookies together. Try putting on some music or taking turns telling family stories as you prepare and cook a meal.
Family Movie Night
Vegging out and relaxing as a family is an easy, low-key way to spend time together. Ask everyone to pick a favorite movie or show. Then pick two or three to watch at each family movie night. Go deeper with this activity by spending some time researching the movies each family member picks. Many websites offer movie-specific discussion questions that can foster lively dialogue among family members. Teach With Movies offers questions that work for any fictional cinematic work.
Family Memory Books and Newsletters
Ten years from now, the mundane things you did today will be treasured memories. Preserve them by working together to create a family newsletter. Allow each family member to write their own article or provide art and photos. For a more detailed family history, try building a family memory book. Continue to add to the list of memories for as long as you like. Then occasionally revisit the book or newsletter and reflect on how time has changed each family member.
You’ve looked forward to your retirement for your entire life. Now that you’re here, it can be tough to figure out how to spend your time. You’ve worked hard to get here. You deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor. For more ideas about how to enjoy your retirement and your relationships with others, check out The Busy Person’s Guide to Recreation in Retirement.