Winter can be a challenging season for seniors, as the cold weather and shorter days can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. However, engaging in winter activities can help seniors to maintain their physical and mental well-being during this time of year. Whether your loved one lives at home or in a senior living community, from outdoor adventures to indoor projects, there are plenty of ways for seniors to stay active and engaged during the winter months. In this blog post, we present 5 types of winter activities for seniors and older adults to consider this winter.
1. Organize Fun Social Activities for Your Loved Ones
According to a report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Social isolation and loneliness are significant public health issues that have a major impact on older adults. There is a significant amount of research evidence that highlights the danger of social isolation as a key risk factor for early mortality, compared to other risks such as high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.
- Research has found that poor social relationships, as defined by social isolation or loneliness, are associated with a 29% higher risk of heart disease and a 32% higher risk of stroke.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients is associated with a significant increase in the risk of death (nearly 4x), hospitalization (68%), and emergency department visits (57%).
There are many different types of social activities that seniors can participate in during the winter. Some examples of social winter activities for seniors include:
- Joining a social club or group: One of the best reasons to live in a senior living community is how many clubs or groups they have for residents. Seniors who live there meet regularly for activities such as book clubs, card games, or lunch outings.
- Volunteering: If your loved one lives in an assisted living community, or even if they still live at home, volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and socialize with people. Many organizations are in need of volunteers, especially during the holiday season. Make a list of your loved ones’ favorite charities or local volunteer opportunities. Check out the websites of each one to see if there is information on volunteering. Email and phone to see if you can visit and discuss having your loved one volunteer. This is often a win-win for everyone involved.
- Taking a class: Many senior community day centers, libraries, and even local community colleges offer classes and workshops on a variety of topics, such as art, cooking, or computer skills. The possibilities are endless and oftentimes these classes are totally free or charge a very nominal fee. Sharing a growth opportunity with peers is such a wonderful way to fill the darker days of winter.
- Having visitors: Encourage friends, family, or community members to visit and spend time with your aging loved one. This can be a great way to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Setting up FaceTime and Zoom meetings is great for those who cannot travel long distances. But also try to coordinate in-person time. There is nothing better for the body and soul than sharing a warm hug with a loved one.
- Participating in Virtual activities: Seniors can participate in virtual social activities like video calls, online games, or virtual tours. If you are somewhat technically savvy, friends and family can coordinate a time to get together online and try one of the many virtual Escape Room games that were created during the pandemic. These often include brain teasers and trivia that are perfect for an older game player. All of this can be done from the comfort of your home.
2. Record a Legacy Video
Creating a legacy video with seniors is a meaningful way to capture their life stories, experiences, and wisdom. It is an opportunity for seniors to share their memories, insights, and values with future generations, and to leave behind a lasting legacy. A legacy video can be a powerful tool for preserving family history and fostering a sense of connection and continuity across generations. It can be created with the help of a professional videographer or by using simple video recording equipment and can be shared with family and friends through social media or other digital platforms.
You can make a video using an iPhone (or other camera phone). Or you can get more advanced and use a video camera. Either way, be flexible and adapt the questions accordingly. But here are a few questions that you can start with:
- Can you tell us about your childhood and growing up?
- Can you share some memories of your parents or grandparents?
- How did you meet your spouse?
- Can you tell us about your profession and any significant milestones or accomplishments during your career?
- Can you share your memories and experiences of raising your children?
- Can you tell us about any significant events or moments in history that you lived through?
- Can you share any stories or memories of traveling or vacations you took?
- Can you tell us about any hobbies or interests that you have had throughout your life?
- Can you share any special traditions or customs that were important to your family?
- What advice would you like to pass on to future generations?
- Is there anything else you would like to add or share about your life?
3. Try Different Winter-themed Foods and Creative Cooking
Some seniors love to be in the kitchen at any time of year. Winter offers a wonderful list of winter-themed foods and creative cooking opportunities. Some of these are especially fun if done at an independent living community, so then everyone can share!
Apple Cider is a warm and comforting winter drink that is easy for seniors to make. It can be made by simmering apples, cinnamon sticks, and cloves on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. It can be sweetened to taste and can be enjoyed hot or cold. You can also add other ingredients such as ginger, nutmeg, or orange peel to give it a different flavor.
Soups are great winter food for seniors as they are easy to make and can be made in bulk. They also provide a lot of nutrients and can be easily customized to suit individual tastes.
Stews are another easy winter food for seniors as they can be made in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. They are also easy to customize and can be made with a variety of meats, vegetables, and spices.
Hot cereal is a comforting and easy winter food. It can be made with a variety of grains such as oatmeal, barley, or quinoa. It is easy to prepare, and seniors can add various toppings such as nuts, dried fruit, and honey.
Grilled Cheese and tomato soup: A classic winter comfort food. Grilled cheese sandwiches are easy to make and require only a few ingredients. They can be paired with tomato soup for a warm and satisfying meal.
Hot Chocolate: A warm mug of hot chocolate is a comforting and easy winter drink for seniors. It can be made with milk and cocoa powder and sweetened to taste. Seniors can add a touch of whipped cream or marshmallows for a special treat.
4. Exercise Together
Exercising is important for seniors to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Regular physical activity can help seniors improve their balance, flexibility, and strength, which in turn can help prevent falls and improve their overall quality of life. Oh, it can also be a ton of fun to do together!
Please remember, it is important for seniors to consult with their healthcare provider before starting any exercise program, to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for them.
- Yoga is a great form of exercise for seniors as it is low-impact and can be modified to suit individual abilities and limitations. It can help seniors improve their balance, flexibility, and strength, as well as reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Yoga classes specifically designed for seniors are often available at community centers, gyms, and senior centers and can be a great way for seniors to socialize and meet new people. In fact, a recent New York Times article featured just how helpful yoga can be as we get older!
- Chair exercises such as seated aerobics, stretching, and strength training can help seniors maintain their mobility and balance while minimizing the risk of falls. These exercises can be led by a trained instructor or a volunteer, and they can include exercises that can be done while seated or using a chair for support.
- Balance games such as bean bag toss, ring toss, or ball toss can help seniors improve their balance and coordination, while also providing a fun and social activity. These games can be played indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather and accessibility.
- Memory exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or memory matching games can help seniors maintain their cognitive function and improve their memory. These exercises can be done individually or in a group setting.
5. Arrange Art-based Classes
Organizing art-based classes can be one of the best winter activities for seniors. Depending on the physical ability of your older loved ones they may enjoy pottery, painting, or clay sculpting. Adult coloring books are another option that is very popular in many senior living communities, especially memory care.
Craft projects will keep seniors focused and are among the safest cold-weather activities for them. Crafting skills can vary, of course, so customize the activity based on the skill level. Create entertaining challenges, but always look for the most rewarding outcomes together. If there are grandchildren around, create a list of intergenerational-friendly projects to enjoy- like scrapbooking and video journals. For lower impact, try writing letters, coloring, and creating seasonal decorations, like a holiday wreath. The art-based activities are endless!
Final Thoughts on Winter Activities for Seniors…
Winter can be a challenging time for seniors. However, there are many winter activities for seniors that can provide them with a great way to stay engaged and improve their overall well-being. Recreate their favorite childhood meals or crafts, or try to get them into a new hobby or skill. Encourage your aging loved one to explore different activities. Let me find new things to enjoy so they can make the most of their winter season. Today’s technology ensures there are no limitations to staying socially active, no matter where you live or what time of year it is.