Summer Activities for Seniors. How to Maintain a Healthy Mental Health

7 July 2023

activities for seniors
Physical activity and mental stimulation are important for health. But they become more challenging to maintain as people get older, especially since many retire, take on less taxing activities, and find themselves
more socially isolated as they age.

In the summer, it may become difficult to coax our more senior loved ones to remain interested in daily activities due to the hotter temperatures. Hence, we’ve curated a list of 12 engaging activities that elderly people would enjoy. We also include modifications for certain items to make them more accessible for those who have mobility challenges or are sensitive to the season’s hotter temperatures.

As a caregiver, or perhaps as a child of aging parents, you can safely encourage them to try any of these activities suggested by IMANA. 

It is very important to note that taking care of mental health at all ages is important. But even more so in older people. Doing activities with your loved one will help keep their mental health in shape and above all, help them to be happier. 

1. Bird-watching

Bird watching can bring lasting improvements in one’s mental health. The calming activity uplifts spirits by encouraging people to reconnect with nature. 

So, consider taking day trips in natural environments that offer a variety of bird species. Seniors can also comfortably sit in an AC-powered room with nice views from a window when the summer heat becomes unbearable. 

Make it engaging by providing information about native species and asking seniors to identify birds based on shape, size, colors, voice, behavior, season, and other interesting factors. 

2. Catch Some Rays (Responsibly)

Sunlight can help boost the body’s vitamin D supply which helps regulate calcium and phosphate in the body — nutrients essential for keeping bones, teeth, and muscles in their prime. It also aids in maintaining cognitive function in older adults, so make it a point to get outside in summer. 

If the heat is too crippling, keep your outdoor excursions short, and be sure to lather up with sunscreen and carry a water bottle with you! 

3. Cook and Enjoy a Fresh Meal

Cooking a meal is a very good neural activity, a nourishing act that allows you to slow down in healthy ways. It stimulates the mind, providing you with a sense of purpose. 

Many senses are involved during cooking. Since food can trigger strong emotions, it can be an effective strategy for reducing passivity and agitation in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

4. Enjoy a Cold Treat

Summer brings the hottest temperatures and some health risks. Luckily, you can fight the heat with delightful and delicious cold treats like ice cream. Take the senior in your life on a sundate. This will indulge their sweet tooth, give them an energy boost, and add vitamins and minerals to their diet. It’s a win-win for all.

5. Get Crafty

Art therapy can improve or restore functioning and well-being, helping prevent common age-related conditions. It also fosters self-esteem and self-awareness while reducing distress by helping individuals express their emotions better. 

Working with clay, for example, can affect one’s body-mind-spirit well-being while minimizing certain depressive symptoms. Plus, it stimulates creativity! Alternatively, you can bring in some adult coloring books to bring some fun and color to a senior’s life.  

6. Go on Walks 

Studies have repeatedly shown how beneficial walking is for older adults. It can:

  • Improve cardiac health. 
  • Promote immune system functioning. 
  • Encourage better-quality sleep.
  • Lower blood sugar.
  • Reduce aches and pains.
  • Slow cognitive decline.
  • Strengthen bones, joints, and muscles.

So, whether it’s a short walk around the park or a gentle hike in the country, make it a point to ensure that your seniors go for walks in the summer. These little adventures are a welcome change from all that time spent indoors and will surely boost their mood.

7. Cultivate a Garden

Working in the garden, creating plants out of seeds, is a rewarding experience, but its benefits go beyond improving life satisfaction by uplifting one’s spirit and mood. It can also restore dexterity and strength while reducing the risk of falls by improving balance and gait, boosting mental sharpness, enhancing motor skills, and reducing stress.

That’s not all. A large study also showed that regular gardening could cut down seniors’ (those over 60) risk of stroke and heart attack by up to 30%!

As you can tell, it’s a very promising activity to try this summer. However, if the senior in your life is in a wheelchair, you can bring nature inside with indoor gardening. This lets them enjoy the same activity without facing mobility and joint issues.

8. Play Games 

Board games can help elderly people remain sharp, which can lower their risk of dementia. So, invite seniors to play their favorite games. It will keep them engaged and give them a safe way to indulge their competitive spirits. It will also help them maintain social and emotional ties, so that’s another plus.

Jigsaw puzzles have shown the most promise, but feel free to think outside the box to give seniors some light-hearted fun with a nice serving of mental health benefits. 

9. Remember the Past

Sharing life experiences, memories, and stories of their good ole’ days can give people with dementia a sense of camaraderie while boosting their confidence. Reminiscence therapy (RT) or the sharing of life experiences can lead to improvements in cognition, communication, and mood, which can be a cathartic way to improve the quality of life of older people. 

10. Start a Book Club

Reading transports you to different worlds. But its benefits shine the brightest in a book club where you’re expected and encouraged to read more thoughtfully, share insights, and build connections. 

Plus, seniors don’t even have to “adjust” to the warm environments. They can just read indoors with the AC on where drinks and snacks are readily available.

11. Try Low-Impact Exercises

Exercise can reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods. The best thing is you don’t even need to hit the gym to avail of its many benefits. Something as simple as swimming, a refreshing activity amid the heat, can boost feel-good hormones to improve mood, stimulate blood circulation, and reduce muscle stiffness. However, if that’s too intense for the seniors in your life, you can get them to try yoga.

12. Watch Outdoor Movies 

Watching movies is an entertaining way to reduce stress. It allows the viewer to escape reality, even if it’s just for a precious few hours. It takes their attention away from what ails them by transporting them to a different time and place. 

Watching a movie in a relaxing environment with plenty of fresh air can promote relaxation which can benefit those living with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Take Home Message

Take some time out of your busy life for these summer activities for seniors and give your loved ones the gifts of companionship and good health. Taking care of mental health is an essential aspect of life. Helping your loved ones stay healthy will also help you. You can even take your efforts to the next level with IMANA, an organization that has programs where you can donate your time and resources to those in need around the world.