The "Therapy Activity" Industry
Have you looked around at the bookstores in the past few years? Coloring and puzzles, crafts for adults, crafts for anxiety, relaxation, and recreation. Gardening, knitting, and walking are back as meditative activities, as is snuggling with the dog or cat. Of course! Our elders knew how these activities were meaningful — simple pleasures, available 365 days a year, and without a steep price tag.
Gram and Gramp may have limitations — concentration, dexterity, and perhaps mobility. Choosing an appropriate activity to be successful is to be aware of what your elder can or cannot do. Of course, we aren't going for a seaside walk when its 12 degrees or snowing.
You know them best.
What did Gram once love to do? Wood crafting? Pottery? With a little creativity and a trip to the craft store, you can bring the activity to them, or with a bit of research, an outing related to their interest may be possible. Pottery painting is all the rage - it's fun, easy, and available locally!
In Manchester, we all "spin the beach." On a big day, we might go around the circle a couple of times! We might get a coffee or other snack and sit in the car until we get pushed to "move along." A sunny or windy day, looking at the surf, the beach walkers, the white caps, and the most important thing of all - time with you. Time spent talking, laughing, thinking about other seasons, the beach full or empty, different times. Precious memories.
Who doesn't like a meal that they don't have to prepare or clean up? Enjoying a soup, sandwich, coffee, and maybe even dessert is like a four-course gourmet meal to our elder friends. I bet they will take half the sandwich home for "supper." Even more so than that piece of apple pie, time with you remains their most cherished memory. Select a place that is not overly stimulating (arrive before the lunch crowd or after). Set up the outing to succeed.
The Peabody Essex Museum.
Remember our mantra of keeping it simple and target one small area of the museum. Saturation of one painting (or two or three), and just "being" together, may be plenty. Sit down in front of a masterpiece. Look and talk. Talk and look. The environment is different.
Strategize your outing time for when your elder has maximum energy and crowds are lowest. Consider comfort, length of visit, accessibility, and ask for help if you need it. This local museum has wheelchairs you can use to tour around. There is a café on-site, as well as handicapped-accessible restrooms
Is mobility not an issue? Options are a-plenty!
Walk the boulevard in Gloucester (on a non-windy, non-rainy day), periodically pausing to rest on a bench. Walk or wheelchair in Bradley Palmer Park (which has a paved roadway) to look, listen, and feel the nature all around you. On a sunny day, set up a lawn chair in the back yard, bathing in the warmth and sound, and of course, your company.
The snow and howling wind ("baby it's cold outside") keeps us indoors during the winter months. Break out some cards! Yes, cards. It's what our parents and grandparents (and many of us) grew up playing with. It can be a simple game like Go Fish or War. You can even give Rummy a try.
How about checkers? My 91-year-old dear friend, Paul, loves his checkers every day. Every. Single. Day. It's not boring. It's fun!
Are your Grandparents into puzzles? Large pieced puzzles are easy to see and handle, and fun to do. Talk and laugh and put the puzzle together. Bring your dog over. Take Fido for a long walk first, so he is nice and calm (and tired). He may sleep at the feet of your loved one or sit calmly to be stroked and admired. What is their favorite genre of music? Movies? Fred Astaire? Who wouldn't love that?
Imagine staying in the house for weeks at a time. Most of us would go stir crazy. As you try to formulate an activity plan for the seniors in your life, keep in mind that…life is smaller. Appetites are smaller, energy levels are smaller, and it generally takes less to make them happy. It's a gift if you look at it with a certain lens.
The old saying, "Come to your senses," has profound wisdom. Satisfy the senses of your loved one who may be isolated, bored, and craving connection and activity. Art, air, water, food, animals, trees, flowers, and people connect us to the earth, to each other, even to ourselves. Smile, laugh, share, and connect.