As we get older it is important to keep our brains stimulated. People who regularly exercise their minds with games or activities are far less likely to lose cognitive abilities than those who don’t.
Just like exercising the body to keep the muscles fit and supple, so the mind needs to be exercised to enable better connections between the brain cells, thus making the brain “stronger” and able to function clearly for longer.
Caring for a person at home gives the carer ample opportunity to encourage activities that engage the mind. Participation in these activities is beneficial for other reasons too – completion of a task gives a sense of satisfaction, success and happiness, which have more health benefits than just improving mental health. A new sense of purpose, laughter and interaction are all vital to keeping the mind and body healthy.
Even those seniors who have later stage dementia can reap the benefits of gentle activities to help them rekindle old memories and give them a feeling of reassurance. The key to activities with those with dementia is to focus on the task and not on the results – participating in activities lessens anxiety and encourages calmness and quiet.
The results might well be haphazard, but that is not important.
Below is a list of a few activities and games that one can do with an older person.
Conversation is a simple way to help a person who may spend many hours of the day alone, feel connected and part of society. Chatting to someone can help ease their minds as they engage with someone who cares and who allows them to speak about their experiences.
Creating something, however simple, is a wonderful way to gain a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Building a model railway, beading or creating a scrapbook are hobbies that can engage the mind and foster pleasant feelings for both the elderly person and their carer.
Even if it’s just a few pots on a small verandah, gardening gets a person outside and into the sunshine. Outdoor time is very important for senior citizens and has important health benefits. Time outside is an uplifting experience and gardening helps to keep the person active.
Music is an essential part to life. Take your elderly family member to concerts or other musical events. Ensure they have a way of listening to music in their home. They might even want to take lessons in a particular instrument. Even if the person has never played an instrument before, taking up a new skill will challenge them both mentally and physically. This will strengthen neural pathways which has great benefits for keeping dementia at bay.
Jigsaw, word, number….. any type of puzzle stretches the mind and provides entertainment. Keep a good selection on hand.
Board games bring people together – they let people have fun together and stimulate conversation and laughter. Even dementia patients can engage in simple games like Snap or Pairs.
Here are a few more game ideas:
*Use the letter “S” and name six things you can wear on your feet
*Name two objects for every letter of your name – state different objects each time
*Tray memory game – put a few household items on a tray. See how many you can remember when the tray is covered with a cloth
The smells and sensations of baking are powerful stimuli promoting happy feelings and stirring up memories. Assist the elderly person in a baking day where they can enjoy making and eating whatever their favourite treat is. Baking is also a creative way to engage with the person in conversation.
Low impact exercises are important for keeping older bodies supple and healthy. Exercise promotes deep breathing and good posture. Your elderly relative could benefit from taking a dance class, yoga or aqua aerobics.
A New Language
This might be quite a challenge, but it is another way of developing new mental pathways. So, whether you want to do an online course or engage in a learning group, learning a new language can prove very beneficial. In a group setting, it also provides the opportunity to make new friends.
Not just for the young, computer games are fun for older people too. There are many options online and you can find great games for those with dementia.
Stimulating minds and a good amount of laughter, trivia quizzes are great for playing one on one or in groups. The stimulation of the game and the interaction with other people is very beneficial. for the elderly.
Although this is a solo activity generally, reading keeps the mind stimulated and active. Make sure the elderly person gets the opportunity to have a selection of books on hand. A trip to the library is also something to look forward to, gets the person out of the house and allows for the mild exercise of walking up and down the isles in search of the perfect book! If their eyesight is such that they battle to read, set aside some time and read to them. Your loved one will benefit not only from the book but from the time spent together.
It is vital that the elderly spend time outside of the house, even if it is just to sit in the garden for a while. As you sit outside help your loved one to identify the plants in the garden and the sounds that they can hear.
For an increased sense of purpose and usefulness, try volunteering. People can learn new skills this way as well an increasing their social interactions. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter or charity shop, or mentoring youth by assisting with after school homework at an aftercare facility.
The elderly are an essential part of any society and as such great care needs to be taken for their well-being in all areas. Playing a part in caring for your elderly relative will create deep bonds of affection and will give you memories to cling to when it is time to say goodbye.
The Cape Care Agency provides a friendly and personal care service that allows the frail, elderly or disabled client to continue to live independently in his/her own home. Depending on the individual needs and health needs of the client, care may be provided on a full or part time basis ie. from 3 hours to 24 hours per day. The choice of whether to remain at home or not is every person’s right.