Summer is traditionally an active time: kids are off school and playing outside, families gather for reunions and barbecues, and people flock to the beach for swimming, volleyball, and sandcastle-building. Aging may cause some mobility issues and heat sensitivity, but with a few adjustments, there is no reason seniors shouldn't enjoy the active summer season. Indeed, participating in indoor or outdoor activities can be beneficial for your senior parent's physical and mental health.
With summer upon us, here are some ideas for activities you can do with your aging parent, or that your parent might want to partake in on their own, with friends, or even with their caregiver.
Indoor Activities for Seniors
1. “Mall walking”
Many malls actually open their buildings to the public about an hour before the shops inside the mall open, so that people can go in and walk around. Walking in malls is a great exercise option for summer: it’s free, there’s air conditioning, and it presents an opportunity for socializing.
In some communities, there are seniors’ groups who mall walk together, so that may be something for your senior loved one to try. Of course, walking in the mall is also possible at any time of day, as long as your loved one doesn’t mind the traffic of shoppers. Mall walking can be a great bonding activity: you and your parent(s) can stroll, chat, and shop together. It can also be a good multitasking opportunity - mom or dad might get a cup of tea and sit for a few minutes to people-watch while you run an errand or two for them.
2. Water aerobics
For seniors who are mobile, participating in a water aerobics class is a nice, cool activity for the hot summer months. A water aerobics class is also a venue where your parent can socialize and build friendships.
Aside from the social benefits, water aerobics also has a lot of benefits for your aging parent’s physical health. The exercise will increase a senior’s muscle strength, reduce their blood pressure, and can even relieve some symptoms of arthritis. You can read more about the advantages of water aerobics here.
3. Organized activities at senior centres
These activities are available year-round, but your parent might be more inclined to leave their home and travel to a senior centre when the weather is pleasant.
Activities might include card games, bingo, movie nights, painting or language classes, and even more adventurous choices like dancing or karaoke. If the weather outside is particularly hot, a senior centre is a great place for your parent to go to get out of the house and enjoy company without risking any heat-induced health problems.
4. Create time for family bonding
In the summer, your children will have time off from school, and you’ve likely saved up some vacation days. Think about spending some quality time with your parent(s) during the summer months.
The options are endless: spend a weekend at a beach or lake, organize family dinners, go to the movies, play board games, or bake together. Have your children show their grandparents how their iPhones work, make time for your parents to read to your kids, or sit down as a family to look at old photographs and talk about memories.
5. Tourist activities
When the weather is better, it’s a great time to get your parent out of the house and escort them to tourist destinations in your city. Many of these destinations, like museums or art galleries, will be air conditioned, and will have seating available should your senior loved one need a break. These destinations are good spots for family trips, and they will provide your mother or father with intellectual stimulation and entertainment.
Outdoor Activities for Seniors
While the summer heat can be dangerous for seniors, a stroll in a local park or around the neighbourhood during the cooler hours of the day can be an excellent summer activity. Spending time in nature is a good boost for one’s spirits, while sun and fresh air are beneficial for physical health. The best time to walk outdoors is either in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or in the early evening (after 5 p.m.).
This is a good summer activity for seniors for many reasons. It’s done outside, which will provide your elderly loved one with fresh air. It’s an engaging activity that will inspire your elderly relative to learn new things and invest themselves in experiencing their environment; these are keys to preventing cognitive decline and depression.
In addition to outdoor bird-watching, you can also set up bird-watching close to home by installing a bird feeder by one of your parent’s windows or near a deck. Additionally, you can purchase bird-watching or bird guide books for your parent to peruse on their own or with someone else, such as a friend or even their in-home caregiver.
3. Attending events
A senior’s health and mobility will determine which events in their community they’re able to attend, but with the wealth of social events that take place in the summer, there are undoubtedly a few events in the community that your loved one will enjoy. Summer events might include flea markets, concerts, picnics or barbecues, festivals, movie nights, sporting events, or readings and lectures. Some of these events should suit both your senior loved one’s interests as well as their health and mobility.
This can be an ideal activity for seniors during the summer. Fishing is low-impact, and it can be either a social or a peaceful activity. Your senior loved one might need help with bait or lines, and you’ll want to make sure they don’t spend too much time under a hot sun, but in a shady location, fishing can be highly beneficial for your loved one’s mental health.
If you decide to go fishing with your parent, it can be an excellent bonding opportunity for you. Fishing with your senior loved one can serve as a chance to enjoy some moments of rest and repose together, a chance to receive their wisdom and advice about the activity, or a chance to learn something new together. It can be an intergenerational activity, and an opportunity to create lasting memories.
Like fishing, gardening is an activity that is both engaging and peaceful. As with fishing, your senior relative might require some assistance from you or from their caregiver, but with that help, gardening can be a fulfilling and tranquil activity that can be enjoyed in the sun or the shade. Unlike fishing, gardening has the advantage of being an activity that can be enjoyed easily from home. Even if your aging parent only has a small balcony, or just a window sill, you can still plant or re-pot flowers together.
Gardening is also an activity multiple generations can partake in. You, your parents, and your children can all participate in the process of planting bulbs or seeds and watching them blossom into flowers or grow into food you can all enjoy together.
Your Senior Loved One’s Summer Needs
No matter what activities you engage in with your parents in the summer, or which activities they might decide to pursue on their own, be aware of the dangers the summer sun can present to the elderly.
- Make sure your aging loved one is always hydrated
- Avoid situations that might result in heatstroke
- Know how to spot the symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion
- Keep your loved one protected from the sun with sunscreen, hats, protective clothing, and umbrellas
- Make sure your loved one is still eating well, even if the heat has caused their appetite to decrease
With these things in mind, your senior loved one can experience an enjoyable and relaxing summer.