Things to Try -- Things to Do


Boredom is a problem

One of the greatest problems an older person can face is boredom. Boredom can affect sleep patterns, attitude, diet and eventually a person’s health. Everyone needs a certain amount of stimulation, your aging relative is no different. A room needs to provide privacy, but it should never become a prison. Your older relative may need to be encouraged to spend time out of the bedroom.

Share activities

You can encourage your older relative to come out and join the family in planning activities. This chapter suggests activities you and an older person can do together. Sharing moments together can eliminate boredom and create memories to treasure. Remember, humor is the best medicine to take the blues away.

Remember Grandma’s fresh baked cookies? It may be hard to remember a time when she did things without help. Most likely she cooked many meals throughout her life. Ask her to share some favorite recipes with you.

Older people may feel sad and frustrated at the loss of the ability to do many things they used to do. Your sensitivity will help them feel more productive. Take time to plan an activity together and you’ll feel good about yourself.

Preparing something in the kitchen can be fun for both of you.

  • Decide what to prepare. Perhaps a favorite family recipe. Involve your relative.
  • Relax and enjoy what you’ve prepared.

Look for recipes from various countries. Have a weekly dinner theme, for example: an Italian night. Cook an Italian meal. Read Italian stories or watch a travel video about Italy. This is a wonderful way to learn about other cultures, too.

Talk about the past

You can spend time with your older relative by talking about what they remember. This is called "reminiscence".

Remembering can bring back good memories and feelings that have been forgotten because of the way things are now.

Write letters

If you know someone who lives in a nursing home or far away, write them a letter. Asking about their past is a good idea, since it may be hard to think of things to write about.

Try the following questions:

  • Where have you traveled?
  • What was it like when you were my age?
  • How did you meet your husband/wife?
  • Where have you lived?
  • What music did you like when you were a teenager?
  • Did you ever have a special pet?
  • What’s your favorite food?
  • What did you usually do on vacation?
  • Can you think of other questions?

The greatest gift is your time.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your older relative is your time. Below are suggested activities you can do together. Many can be done with someone in a nursing home.

  • Sit together and listen to tapes of books. Your school or local library will have a selection of taped novels, which you can borrow. Listen to a chapter at a time and discuss what you have heard.
  • Borrow or rent travel videos to watch together.
  • Start an indoor garden. Plant seeds for flowers, or vegetables in flowerpots or other containers. Enjoy watching them grow.
  • Try bird watching. Get a book on birds from the library and keep a list of different birds you see.
  • Help Grandma with make-up. Comb her hair. Looking good makes everyone feel better. Do a crossword puzzle together.
  • Play cards. Cards with giant faces are available to assist someone with a visual impairment. Card racks make it easier to hold cards.
  • Together, arrange cut flowers.
  • Toss a balloon back and forth.

These are just a few of the many activities to do together. Think up others on your own. You’ll find spending time with an older person is very rewarding.

Source: New York Office on Aging, Administration on Aging

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