Look online for the phrase “activities for seniors” and you’re likely to find a mixture of crafts, games, memory stimulation puzzles, and of course, the requisite bingo. What you will not find, unless you search much more, are the meaningful, philanthropic activities that provide purpose to our lives. And yet, if you ask aging adults what they would most wish to do, the majority of them will not mention games, art projects, or bingo. What they want more than anything is to feel useful.
The University of Minnesota reveals details on how the most vulnerable times in our lives are the initial year of life, and the first year after retirement. The loss of a sense of purpose that comes from a rewarding occupation can bring about considerable health concerns – and even an earlier mortality rate, if that sense of purpose is not redefined in some way to let the older person experience a continued sense of being needed.
One program, the Baltimore Experience Corps, matches older individuals with young children in schools that are understaffed, supplying them with the priceless opportunity to mentor, provide help with reading abilities, and serve as a warm and nonjudgmental buddy to the children. And they are undoubtedly helping themselves in the process as well. As Michelle Carlson, Ph.D., of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shares, “By helping others, participants are helping themselves in ways beyond just feeding their souls. They are helping their brains. The brain shrinks as part of aging, but with this program we appear to have stopped that shrinkage and are reversing part of the aging process.”
When supporting a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it may require a bit of creativity to determine engaging activities that promote their sense of purpose and meaning. Providing home care services in Florence and the surrounding area, New Horizons In-Home Care offers the tips below to help get you started:
- Check out local and nationwide agencies that provide help to those in need – the homeless, veterans, animals, women and children in poverty or crisis, etc.
- Determine if these businesses have any volunteer options that older individuals or those with cognitive difficulties could help with, such as:
- Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have ribbon campaigns that necessitate folding, cutting, and stapling lengths of ribbon to cards for distribution.
- Animal rescue shelters and humane societies are often in need of donated towels and blankets that need to be cleaned and folded up at home; or aging adults and family members could prepare homemade pet treats together, or possibly even take dogs for walks together or pet and give attention to the cats.
- Assemble care packages for the homeless or veterans with travel-sized toiletries, snacks, etc.
- Work on coloring pages or other easy crafts together, letting the older adult know they will be given to a local domestic crisis shelter to brighten the day for women and children.
Be sure the older adult has opportunities to help with as many duties as possible around the home: sorting and folding laundry, snapping beans, setting the table – letting the senior know how much his or her help is required and valued.
At New Horizons In-Home Care, our home care in Florence and the surrounding areas goes beyond just providing care in the home; our caregivers are dedicated to helping seniors live lives full of purpose and meaning. For more recommendations on helping older individuals maintain the highest quality of life, reach out via our online contact form or call us any time at 541-997-8115. See our full northern Oregon service area.