Staying active is an essential part of healthy living at any age, but as we age, it can get harder. Your help in engaging your senior loved one in activities that will keep them both physically and mentally active is invaluable.
Keeping active is a big part of improving a senior’s quality of life, but you don’t have to do anything radical to make that happen. All that’s needed is to implement a series of small changes, and you will see a dramatic improvement in both the health and attitude of your loved one.
Try these small changes.
1. Keep Your Loved One Involved with the Family
Often as a loved one grows older, we unconsciously exclude them from family activities. Now there may be certain activities where that’s necessary. For example, if you’re a family of avid skydivers or freestyle rock climbers, encouraging an elderly loved one to participate will not be in anyone’s best interests. But generally, it’s more about making the little extra effort to include them.
Probably the easiest and by far the most beneficial change is to visit more. That can include either visiting your loved one at their home or bring them to your home more frequently. It should never be only for “important events” either, like holidays and birthdays. A short visit for a meal, or just taking the time chatting or playing a game in the afternoon or evening is sufficient.
Depending upon your loved one’s age and physical condition, shorter visits may be preferred. But by making them more frequent, you’ll help your loved one be more actively involved and comfortable with you and your family.
2. Seek Their Advice and Input
One of the best ways to make an elderly loved one feel part of the family, and even part of the world, is by seeking their advice on important matters. Families often exclude the wisdom of our elders from important decisions for significant family matters. Sometimes we subconsciously do this out of a desire to minimize the stress in their lives. But excluding them from these situations can be stressful in itself. They can often sense when something important is going on and may cause stress over not being able to help.
Though the desire to insulate your loved one from stress may be well-intentioned, it ignores the fact that an older person often has experience with the very challenges with which the family is currently dealing. By seeking their advice, you may be “killing two birds with one stone” – getting valuable advice for the family and reminding your loved one that he or she is an integral part of the family.
From time to time, discuss important family matters with your loved one. Also feel free to discuss personal problems and challenges. Everyone’s been through them, and so has your loved one – leverage their experience. Age may provide a perspective on your circumstances, or those of the family in general, that no one but your loved one can offer.
Keeping your loved one engaged in the more in-depth details of the family will serve as a reminder that they are still a vital part of your family.
3. Physical Activity
Physical activity isn’t just for the young and the middle-aged. Senior quality of life can be improved substantially by engaging in even the lightest of physical activity. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme, nor should it be. A casual walk outside on a beautiful day, or at the mall or some other large facility when the weather isn’t cooperating, can have tremendous benefits.
Exercise can help your loved one get moving, which will help with stamina, blood flow, muscle retention, and even alertness. You may also want to try physical activities on a loose schedule to keep the process more dynamic and exciting.
4. Keep Them Busy
Fun activities certainly help a senior’s quality of life. But it may be even more important that your loved one keep busy with necessary or purposeful tasks.
For example, when your loved one is visiting, invite him or her to participate in light work around your home. Though it may seem inconsequential to you, it can be exhilarating to a senior to know that they’re somehow helping you and your family in a hands-on way.
Another example, if you have a minor repair project in your home, your dad or granddad may be fully capable of performing it. Your mom or grandma is probably perfectly capable of helping you make a grocery list, Christmas list, or clipping coupons. Your loved one can also be involved in routine activities, like meal preparation, light housekeeping, or reorganizing a room in your home.
If you happen to be running out on some errands, call your loved one and ask him or her to come along. If nothing else, let them know you want company along the way. The spontaneous nature of the invitation could be a precious gift to a senior who doesn’t get out of the house too often.
5. Help Them Keep Up Appearances
It may sound vain, but we all feel better when we look our best. Sometimes trying a new look can give us a greater sense of self-worth. That’s true of seniors as well.
The next time you’re going to the barber, the hairdresser or the nail salon, invite your loved one to come along. Maybe you’re going out shopping for clothing, shoes, or a winter coat – bring him or her along, and provide the opportunity for them to participate in whatever it is you’re doing.
6. Make Future Plans
Younger people often underestimate the importance of the future and the effect it has on their sense of well-being. That happens because they have more time in life. But, as we get older, the future begins to get a little less certain – making all the more essential to plan for the future eagerly.
By making plans with your loved one, you can create a sense of continuity, and give them something to look forward to with excitement. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic; you might merely enlist their support in a party or family event you’re planning for a year from now. Maybe map out a plan to take them along with you on a trip to someplace special.
Final Thoughts on Small Changes that Can Improve Senior Quality of Life
None of the changes we’ve suggested are dramatic. More than anything else, it’s a matter of keeping your loved one as a close part of your life, and that of the rest of the family. We all have a need to be needed, to belong, and have a purpose. That includes seniors, and that’s precisely the sense of purpose you’ll give them by making these changes.