Recreational therapy uses leisure activities to improve the health and emotional well-being of seniors. These activities have immense health benefits for seniors dealing with physical or mental health issues and provide an ideal way to avoid boredom, loneliness, stress and depression.
The key benefits of regular therapeutic activities for the elderly include improved mood, a better quality of life and strengthen social connections.
For the best results from recreational therapy activities, try to match these activities with your interests.
12 Therapeutic Activities For the Elderly
There are many outdoor therapeutic activities for seniors that they can try if they are active and have no mobility issues including walking and jogging, gardening and swimming.
This article will focus on recreational therapy activities that older adults can enjoy in their homes, nursing homes and senior living communities.
1: Puzzles and Brain Games
According to a study by NIH, puzzles and brain games help older adults maintain reasoning skills and improve cognitive abilities by stimulating their brains. Memory games and puzzles not only keep you mentally sharp and active but are also useful to combat social isolation and loneliness.
Puzzles and brain games are fun therapeutic activities for the elderly who are suffering from anxiety and depression, health issues or the loss of a spouse. Family members and professional caregivers can also use puzzles and games to keep seniors entertained and keep their brains stimulated.
- 10 Printable Brain Games for Seniors
- Best iPad brain games for seniors
- Printable Crossword Puzzles for Seniors
- Printable Trivia Questions for Seniors
2: Play Video Games
A study by North Carolina State University shows that older adults who play video games regularly or occasionally report a higher level of emotional well-being. The study further states that the participants who never played video games had a tendency to experience more depression and negative emotions.
Technology makes it easy for seniors to access and play video games. You can play video games online, on smartphones, iPads and other tablets and gaming systems like Nintendo Wii. There are a variety of video games specifically designed for old folks.
A study by NIH showed many improvements among senior dementia patients who play video games. Gaming is one of the recreational therapy activities that are ideal for bedridden and wheelchair-bound elderly.
- 15 Fun Alexa games for seniors
- Best Android games for seniors
- Best iPhone games for seniors
- 15 iPad games for older adults
If you think video games are for young people, visit Shirley Curry’s YouTube Channel who is an 86-year-old gamer with 1 million + subscribers on her channel.
A study by AARP in 2019 reported more than 44% of older adults play video games regularly and numbers have increased exceptionally since.
3: Listen to Podcasts
A podcast is like a radio program that you can listen to anytime you want. There are podcasts for seniors covering every possible topic including senior living, health, news, history, women’s issues and other fun stuff.
Podcasts can inspire seniors to achieve their goals in retirement and provide new ways to see things from a new perspective.
- 15 Best Podcasts for Seniors
- Podcasts by AARP
- Top 10 Podcasts for Women Over 60
- Best senior living podcasts
4: Cooking and Baking – Try a New Recipe
It is natural to lose interest in cooking if you live alone but it is important to have fresh homemade meals with proper nutritional value. Cooking can help stimulate senses that are not normally used.
For older adults dealing with dementia, it can stir up memories of family traditions. Cooking and baking bring alive the senses of smell, taste, touch and sight and improve hand-eye coordination.
The Internet makes it easy to access recipes that require minimal prep and time and provide proper nutrition for older adults.
- 20 Easy and Nutritious Recipes for Seniors
- Caregiver’s Guide to Healthy Recipes for Seniors
- Healthy Aging Recipes
5: Listen to TED Talks
TED is a nonprofit devoted to “Ideas worth spreading” in form of a short and powerful presentation by motivational speakers and experts. Ted Talks are short and quality content covering all possible subjects and issues.
Listening to a Ted Talk is one of the best therapeutic activities for the elderly to get inspiration and motivation.
These talks are not more than 18 minutes while most speakers aim for under 10 minutes. I am sure you will love the quality of these short presentations and have fun exploring your favorite topics.
Here are some of the Ted Talks to get you started.
- 10 Best Ted Talks for Older Adults
- 25 most popular TED Talks of all time
- How to Know Your Life Purpose in 5 Minutes
- My Stroke of Insight
- 10 Best TED Talks on retirement
You can listen to Ted Talks on YouTube or Ted Talks website. There are more than 4100 Talks to choose from.
6: Art Therapy
Express your creative side and dedicate some time to art that you love. Seniors can try painting, drawing, singing, sculpturing, photography and more. You do not have to be perfect and what you decide to do. You can always learn a new art. There are plenty of free resources online to help you.
Learning and practicing art not only gives you the ability to express your thoughts and emotions but also combat depression and anxiety.
7: Develop a Workout Routine
Out of all the therapeutic activities for seniors, a workout routine is the most important for physical and mental health. You can increase your balance and avoid falls through regular exercise. Get your blood pumping through regular physical activities and lower the risk of depression and increase your energy levels.
There are many low-impact workout routines that you can follow including yoga and chair exercises.
- 10 Minutes Seated Exercises for Seniors and Elderly
- How Older Adults can Get Started with Exercise
- Exercise Guide for Seniors
- Must have exercise apps for seniors
8: Learn a New Skill
Learning makes you think out of the box and out of your comfort zone. Following the same routine every day is a recipe for stagnation. Challenge yourself to learn something new that you always wanted to explore. It can be a new hobby like painting or a skill like knitting.
Many seniors miss a sense of purpose when they are not working or raising a family. It will provide you with a strong sense of purpose and feelings of accomplishment.
Learning keeps the brain young and improves cognition.
According to research by The University of Edinburgh, learning a new language delays the risk of developing dementia and improves the cognitive skills of older adults. You feel a sense of accomplishment after learning a new skill and can share it with family and friends (like gifting a knitted piece to your loved ones).
9: Try A Second Act After Retirement
According to Business News Daily, 92% of people age 40 and older plan to work after their retirement to remain mentally sharp and active. There are many fun and easy part-time jobs that can double up as therapeutic activities for the elderly.
You can avoid boredom and loneliness, stay physically and mentally sharp and explore new things while working from home part-time and making some money along the way.
Explore 12 fun retirement jobs that pay a small fortune. You can work from home in your own schedule for most of these jobs. You will have fun interacting with others and helping them while keeping yourself busy and productive.
10: Reading Therapy
According to research by the University of Sussex, 6 minutes of reading a book reduces stress by 68%. The research further concluded that reading outperformed other recreational therapy activities such as listening to music (stress level reduced by 61%) and walking (stress level reduced by 42%).
Dr David Lewis, who conducted the research, says:
“It really does not matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination”.
Technology makes it easy for you to access thousands of books on your Kindles, iPads and other e-readers. An electronic device like Amazon’s Kindle is a lightweight gadget that has a paper-like display and is easy on the eyes. Seniors can access books of their interest on their kindles without going to a library or bookstore.
Seniors can also choose to listen to audio books on their smartphones and other gadgets.
11: Watch a Sitcom
Laughter is the best medicine. Laughter enhances your oxygen intake, stimulates your lungs and heart and increases the endorphins that are released by the brain. It not only elevates your mood but also reduces stress, anxiety, fear and depression.
When we experience humor, we socialize more and our relationships improve. There are many benefits of using different types of humor as therapeutic activities for the elderly. You can start with a famous sitcom (like Mr. Bean) or a comedy tv series (like F.R.I.E.N.D.S). There is enough free material on YouTube.
To get things rolling, may I suggest a clip from Mr. Bean that will definitely make you laugh and want to watch more.
12: Start a Group Activity
There are different recreational therapy activities that you can do in groups. Group activities have a sense of belonging and relatability and provide a social experience. Examples of group therapeutic activities for seniors include:
- Skill development groups: you can learn a skill like knitting in groups
- Workout Groups: This is the best way to get some well-needed exercises and have fun
- Meditation groups
- Book clubs
- Puzzles and party games: Try to solve some crossword puzzles or play group Trivia.
Group activities are ideal to have fun and socialize and help you combat anxiety, depression and stress. Your relationships improve and you make new friends and find many things in common with other seniors.
These are 12 therapeutic activities for the elderly that they can try in their homes or senior living communities.
You can also have a look at fun things for seniors to do at home.
Benefits of Therapeutic Activities for Seniors
Recreational therapy activities are helpful for older adults who are
- Rehabilitating from an illness or surgery
- Being treated in a hospital and experiencing anxiety and stress
- Aging in place and suffering from loneliness, depression and social isolation
- living independently and do not rely on others for daily activities
- looking to take care of their physical and mental health
- living in senior living communities and want to spend their time productively
- Retired and looking for a sense of purpose
- Bedridden or wheelchair-bound and want to have some quality time
You can achieve the best results by choosing activities around seniors’ interests and needs. Let the elderly have fun and laugh and enjoy what they want to do.
Try different recreational therapy activities for different days of the week and you will soon have a new set of hobbies.