For many older adults, few things can perk them up like being involved in meaningful hobbies and activities. And the need to keep stimulated and engaged doesn’t stop just because someone’s physical ability declines. It may take a little research and creativity to find accessible activities for seniors with a disability, but it’s well worth the effort -- sleeping the day away should not be an option for anyone.
From the standpoint of both physical and emotional health, exercise provides older adults with enormous benefits, as long as it doesn’t aggravate pre-existing physical problems, that is. It can take some digging to find group exercise classes geared to seniors and people with physical limitations, but rest assured, such classes do exist (check seniors’ centers, boards of educations, YMCAs and community centers.) Tai Chi, Feldenkrais, or gentle yoga or Pilates classes can be good choices for those with limited mobility, though a seated exercise class might be the best bet of all for someone in a wheelchair.
Also, keep in mind that some pools have adaptive equipment like pool lifts as well as warm pools, which can do wonders for arthritic pain. More ever, if your mother is mobile than accompanying her on a walk around the neighbourhood or a nearby park could be an enjoyable physical activity for both her and you.
If your mother likes nothing better than sitting down with a good book, by all means encourage her to keep it up even if declining vision is taking away from the enjoyment --large print books or talking books, just might do the trick.
Furthermore, reading doesn’t necessarily have to be a solitary pleasure. If there are kids on the scene, it might give (great) grandma great pleasure to read them their favorite bedtime story or have them read it back to her. Joining a book club is yet another way reading can be transformed into a social experience -- not only do members get the chance to chat about characters and tease apart themes, they sometimes develop close friendships to boot.
Cards, Puzzles and Games
Playing cards or board games is a popular pastime with many older adults, and one that can be adapted for seniors with low vision by using large-print cards or adaptive board games. (If vision is not an issue, your mother might get a kick out of some of the newer games geared to seniors, such as the Reminiscing Game, which uses nostalgia questions going back to the 1950s, or Senior Moments, another memory game.) There are also many websites that provide games, puzzles and activities, including the Blind Gamers site, which offers games such as Suduko, Boggle and Hearts that are adapted for those with low vision.
If your mother is the artsy type, you may be in luck -- with a little ingenuity, many arts and crafts projects can be done by seniors with physical limitations. For instance, even those with limited dexterity can usually work with polymer clay, a type of modelling clay that can be molded into bendable bookmarks, vases, picture frames and ornaments. (Not only that, softening the clay is a soothing way to exercise fingers and hands!)
Although many forms of jewelry making may be too intricate for seniors with arthritic hands or limited vision, stringing beads for a necklace might be an option if a thick plastic string and big beads are used. Needle crafts are another possibility – just make sure to buy thicker yarn and larger size knitting needles or crocheting hooks. Finally, scrapbooking might be a particularly rewarding activity because it’s relatively easy to do, and on top of creating something special, your Mom will get to see photos of familiar people, pets and places.
Not all these activities for seniors may fit your situation, but we hope we got the wheels turning. So, don’t delay, ask your mother what appeals to her, then work together to find an activity that’s stimulating and engaging. But not so challenging that she gives up in frustration.