Are you a caregiver for an aging parent? While seniors in their 70s, 80s and 90s are being encouraged more than ever to stay active, get out and enjoy life, the stark reality is that many experience stress and anxiety over health, financial and independence issues.
If you’re looking for a mood booster for your aging mom or dad, don’t miss these 5 creative ideas:
When mobility problems have your loved one struggling with frustration and anxiety over having to use a wheelchair or walker, don’t ignore the problem – embrace it.
Mobility issues for older adults range from simple weakness when standing and walking, to loss of balance and inability to stand or move at all without support.
Instead of simply trying to soothe a parent who is bummed about having to use a mobility aid, help them make the most of it by enhancing said device.
This might include painting their walker, decorating their cane or strapping helpful bags or cup holders to their wheelchair. The best bag for your wheelchair will easily fit on the side or back of the chair and offer multiple pockets for carrying items like a phone, pen, keys, etc.
Ruminating on the negative is almost unavoidable, especially if you are battling a chronic illness or struggling with mobility, hearing or vision loss.
A 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that walking in nature can have a positive effect on mental wellbeing.
Participants who spent time walking through a natural environment versus an urban one reported lower tendencies to brood on negative thoughts and even measured reduced neural activity in regions of the brain linked to mental illness.
If your loved one can’t walk, take them out in a wheelchair and push them around their neighborhood or the green space by where they live. For a special outing, time meandering around a botanical garden or arboretum could also effectively bolster their spirits.
Few activities let you create something beautiful and focus on positive, reinforcing thoughts quite like art-making.
Artistic activities ranging from painting to sculpting, origami, knitting, even coloring can offer your aging parent a daily dose of positivity, and give them something purposeful and creative to focus on.
A 2016 pilot study revealed that just 45 minutes of art-making resulted in lowered cortisol (stress hormone) levels in participants.
Additional anecdotal evidence has shown that adult coloring specifically has the potential to reduce stress levels and serve as a type of moving meditation for older adults.
Too often seniors feel stripped of their sense of purpose or self-worth when they lose key markers of independence – like being able to drive, living on their own or getting around without a mobility aid. One way to combat that ‘loss’ is to revive a sense of meaning in their lives through helping others.
Volunteering not only boosts spirits and lowers risk for high blood pressure, but it can give your aging parent a project or goal that they can work towards completing, knowing that their efforts are making a difference in someone else’s life.
Volunteering at a food bank or animal shelter may not be feasible for your older mom or dad. However, there is a multitude of other service ideas for older adults with or without mobility issues.
These might include tutoring, mentoring, cooking a meal or treat for a neighbor in need, consulting for a nonprofit, volunteering at the hospital or helping with Meals on Wheels.
More and more seniors are taking to activities like yoga and tai chi for exercise and practice in mindfulness. Why?
In addition to offering low-impact fitness that is adaptable and effective at strengthening muscles, bones and flexibility, yoga and tai chi cultivate a sense of mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing and foundational principles of kindness, peace and self-awareness.
Getting started with yoga or tai chi has never been easier. Many senior centers conduct regular classes, and boutique studios are picking up on the trend, offering more and more sessions tailored specifically to senior needs – i.e., chair yoga, senior yoga, etc.
Help your mom or dad find a class they can attend – or you can both attend together – and start a new weekly habit.
Additional activities for improving your loved one’s mood and outlook include listening to music, exercising and helping them make a little extra cash selling gently used goods they’ve collected over the years.
What do you do to improve your aging parent’s spirits? What activities can you take part in with your aging parent that bring both of you joy? Please share in the comments below.
when my mom was suffering from PSP, a degenerative neurological disease, i would take her out on her porch on sweet summer evenings. she would be in her wheelchair and I would sit close and give her a manicure. while doing that, I would ask her questions and she would respond as best she could about her childhood, the weather, her happy times, sad times, what foods she liked, disliked, etc. i learned so much about her during those last days than i ever knew. She passed in 2006 peacefully, surrounded by her 4 daughters, some of her grandchildren, and my dad. i was holding her, as she lay, almost helpless and barely able to talk, when she looked up at me and told me- “get me out of here”. That broke my heart as i knew then that she could not tolerate any more of the painful seizures and complete loss of movement that had taken over her body . she was able to tolerate one last calming suppository ( she was already on a fentanyl patch). She passed so peacefully that i was amazed.
Her family was her life and everything she did was for her daughters. i was singing the song “Cry Out to Jesus” while bathing and dressing her one day. Barely able to talk above a whisper by then , she looked at from her wheelchair and said “What’s that song you are singing?”. i told her and continued to sing low and slow- that moment in time is burned into my memory and still haunts me…