by Patricia LaCroix, contributing writer
Right now, at the time this article is being written, the world has become a very different place, thanks to the 2020 coronavirus ( COVID-19) outbreak. Many communities are being asked to “shelter in place” — that is, people need to stay in their homes for an indefinite amount of time. The (CDC) has suggested — strongly, specifically and purposefully — that older adults shelter in place as much as possible. This means only going outside the home for “essential” activities, such as grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions.
The truth is that a shelter-in-place order can happen for a lot of different reasons. Natural disasters and other emergencies beyond pandemics can make staying in one’s home a prudent course of action.
But just because older adults need to remain in their homes doesn’t mean that they need to be inactive or become bored. There are things you can do to prevent boredom and keep both the mind and the body active. If you are an older adult, or if you care for a senior, here are five ways older adults can stay busy and active at home!
Enjoyed by the young as well as young at heart, puzzles are a great way to entertain one’s self, as well as to distract one’s mind from stressful times and events. They also are an excellent way to exercise the brain. Older adult brains are still “plastic” — that is to say, they still have the ability to improve. Puzzles are one way to put that plasticity to work and enrich cognitivity.
Puzzles come in many shapes and forms. There are puzzle books, such as crossword, sudoku, and word search puzzles. There are also jigsaw puzzles, which can range from the very simple kind, with only a few large pieces, to those that are extremely complex with many small pieces, which can take many hours to complete. A puzzle should be both interesting and challenging for the senior, without being so difficult or overwhelming that it is no longer enjoyable. It should feel like a pastime, rather than a chore.
Cook or bake
If the senior loves to cook or bake, and has no physical reason not to do so, now is the perfect time to get creative with one’s cuisine! Not only can cooking and baking help keep a senior busy, but it can also can be a very frugal activity as well, saving money and food supplies at a time when both might be scarce.
The internet is full of quick and easy recipes that older adults can make. Many simple recipes require what should already be on hand in the senior’s kitchen — flour, milk, eggs, sugar, butter, and, of course, water. One such recipe is crepes, which can be stuffed with either savory or sweet fillings, to help make meals and desserts a little more enjoyable and interesting. Click HERE to get a recipe to make basic crepes that take no more than the ingredients already mentioned.
Many seniors love doing arts and crafts. Some already have the skills to do knitting or crocheting. If so, make sure supplies such as yarn and needles are available for use. The internet has lots of website devoted to both knitting and crocheting, and many offer patterns free of charge. Click HERE to check out some free crochet patterns for every crochet level, from beginner to advance.
Painting can be fun and easy to do, no matter the skill set. Watercolor sets and paper are easy to come by, even in local grocery or drug stores. Also popular are coloring books specifically designed with adults in mind. They can be very relaxing and enjoyable to work on and complete.
If a senior likes to write and can still see well enough to do so, what better way to use this time than to create a written journal of his or her thoughts? They can be entries for one’s own private benefit. Or, the writings could be something more public, to be shared with friends and family.
This is a great opportunity for an older adult to write about his or her life and the historic times they’ve lived through, in order to pass those stories down to future generations. It’s also a chance to express one’s thoughts and emotions in a very safe and often healthy way.
Exercise with TV and online programming
There are a number of YouTube channels that devote themselves to fitness, including fitness for older adults. If the senior’s physician has given the green light on exercise, don’t hesitate to check out these exercise videos. Here below is one that is specifically designed to help keep seniors fit, from the U.S. government’s Go4Life senior activity program.
Another senior exercise program you can catch online is the “Silver Sneakers” program. In response to the number of older adults that must stay home during the coronavirus outbreak, they now run a live video workout on their Facebook page. Click HERE to check out Silver Sneakers Facebook page and learn more about it.
There is also a syndicated TV show that is picked up by many PBS stations called “Sit and Be Fit.” This program designed for older adults and promotes fitness that doesn’t require as much movement as other exercise regimes. To find out if “Sit and Be Fit” is available on TV in your area, just click HERE to visit the program’s website. There you can add your zip code and find out if the program is available via your local PBS station, and if so, days and times to view it.