On the move! Activities for the Elderly
As we grow older, it becomes easier to fall into the trap of just staying at home to watch television or putter about because it simply takes too much energy to go out and socialize or engage in physical activities. The keyword here is “trap” because however enticing it is to hang about the house, it’s actually important to our well-being to stay active especially as we approach senior age.
According to studies, participating in social and physical activities can delay the development of cognitive and physical limitations and reduce the risk of a number of mental health issues. Interacting with peers and being engaged keeps the mind sharp, and gives us a sense of belonging and a support system. And of course, regular exercise is always great for the body.
So what activities are fun (and safe) for the elderly?
- Going on regular walks with a buddy or a group – Walking is great exercise and we don’t have to rush through it. Going with a spouse, a family member, a friend, or even a group makes it all the much safer (because we’re not alone) and can encourage interesting conversations. Varying routes once in a while can also be fun. Those of us who want to go on walks and make friends will be please to know that there are lots of walking clubs around Australia. Heart Foundation Walking Australia is a networking site dedicated to encouraging the activity and there are hundreds of groups listed in the different states. We can also check out the National Parks Association’s Bushwalking Program or, for Sydney residents, the city has a few projects catering specifically to walking enthusiasts listed on the official website.
- Gardening – When the weather is great, take it as an invitation to go out into the yard and plant some flowers or vegetables. We can do this alone or with a helper, but it’s a definite way to get some physical activity in. And we can always use this as a way to socialize by sharing our flowers or produce with family and friends, joining a gardening club, or just making friends with the fine folks at our local nursery.
- Taking a class or join a sports team – Community centres always have a lot of activities going on for people of all ages, including the elderly. Whether it’s yoga, tai chi, ballroom dancing, painting, or even computer and internet education classes, we’re sure to learn something new and find peers (or people of all ages) to share these experiences with. For those who are more up to competitive sports, there are bound to be a couple of teams and leagues looking for elderly participants.
- Volunteering – Another worthwhile way to fill spare time and interact with others is to volunteer in the community. It doesn’t really matter what our skillsets and experiences are, there’s sure to be an organisation that will need us. Libraries, museums, schools, conservation groups, soup kitchens, and all sorts of non-profits are always looking for helping hands. Sites like OnlineVolunteering.org, SeekVolunteer, and Volunteering Australia are great jump-off points for finding opportunities around the country and beyond. However, we can also choose to contact our city halls or community centres for any openings for volunteers in nearby areas.
- Adopting a pet – Assuming we’re still willing and able to take on the responsibility, adopting a pet can keep elderly folks engaged. Not only are we getting a loyal companion, but the activities involved in making sure our furry, feather, or scaly friends are well taken care of can help keep us sharp and active.
These are just some ideas that the elderly can try in order to keep healthy, active, and social because, as we mentioned earlier, it’s essential to be on the move even if it may seem like we’re too old or too tired to do so. But it’s also important to note that the elderly may also have some physical limitations so it’s always best to consult with a family physician or a geriatrician about which activities are safe to participate in according to our state of health.
Independent and active, the elderly should consider getting medical alert systems and automatic fall detection systems to allow easy access to medical response, should any accidents or falls occur. There are a number of companies all across Australia who can provide the elderly with monitoring devices including the Australian Red Cross.
Are you or your loved one an active elderly? What activities do you enjoy and recommend to other the elderly who want to get out and do more? Let us know in the comments!