When the sun is shining, there’s no better place to be than outside. However, for elderly people with limited mobility, long-term health conditions, or dementia, it can take some preplanning and creativity to enjoy summer safely.
How to organise activities for older loved ones
According to a UK survey by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), many older people don’t enjoy activities that are specifically organised for them, because they find them too simplistic or patronising.
It’s important to always involve your loved one in the planning an activity to do together, ensuring it’s centred around their hobbies, memories or interests.
Summer activities for older people with dementia
Revisit the past
Visiting a place where an older person spent many family holidays, or a street or village where they grew up can encourage them to talk about the past and share these memories with you.
There are also a number of open-air museums around the UK, such as The Black Country Living Museum, Beamish, or Surrey’s Living Museum of Rural Life, which recreate what life was like throughout the 20th century. These attractions often host special events, for example Beamish runs a number of singalongs with a live traditional band and days celebrating life in the 1950s, while the Living Museum of Rural Life holds regular craft weekends and vintage car shows. Open air museums play host to a huge range of visual stimuli and sounds, which again, can be really engaging and spark happy memories.
Some 2023 events include –
- Rockin’ and Rollin’: a 1950s evening – The Black Country Living Museum
- Musical Mondays – Beamish
- 1219 Caledonia Works steaming day – Beamish
- Country Craft Weekend – Surrey Museum of Rural Life
- Working Objects Weekend – Surrey Museum of Rural Life
Still-life drawing or painting
Art can be a great activity for elderly people living with dementia, as it creates a sense of accomplishment, which can help them to feel happy and boost self-esteem.
However, it’s important not to choose an art activity that’s too simple or child-like for your loved one’s abilities.
Painting something from still life allows for all artistic abilities and means everyone can get involved. Choosing a flower bed or garden scene as the subject matter is a nice way to soak up a little sunshine at the same time.
For those living with dementia, spending time outside in the garden can regulate their body clock, helping them to sleep better and minimising sundowning symptoms.
Gardening is an activity that allows people to do as much or as little as their health or cognition allows – small planters or window boxes are easy to maintain but still bring a lot of satisfaction, or you could make a day of it and get other family members involved too – helping with digging and other more strenuous tasks that your loved one may struggle with. Visiting a local garden centre, or choosing plants and flowers can also help start conversations and is a good way to stay socially active in the community too.
Macrame, beaded jewellery making, and clay work are all fun, relaxing activities that can be done in the garden, and are good options for those receiving home care, who may not be as mobile.
Local community groups and societies often run craft sessions too, which can be good for meeting and socialising with people who share the same hobby or experiences. Take a look at Sightline or Hearinglink to find groups near you.
Take a trip to the seaside
A trip to the seaside provides a ton of sensory stimulation – from the smell of salty sea air and fish and chips, to the feeling of the sand between the toes.
Visit a sensory garden
Sensory gardens stimulate all the senses – sight, smell, sound, touch and taste – meaning there is still plenty to engage with if a loved one is living with hearing or sight loss. Sensory gardens are a great way to connect with nature and provide a sense of calm.
The most famous sensory garden in the UK is probably The Eden Project in Cornwall. It’s impressive Biomes house humid rainforests, cooling waterfalls, and a vast array of scents and sounds from around the natural world. With accessible parking, free entry for caregivers, and free wheelchairs to use while you navigate the gardens, it’s a hugely popular attraction for people with additional care needs.
Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire also offer free entry for caregivers, and offer an accessibility guide on their website highlighting amenities in place throughout the park for hearing and visually impaired visitors. The Italian Garden plays host to a vibrant display of plants, flower, and water features, and the central lake is home to lots of wildlife, including a colony of beavers. I
If you’re in Wales, then National Botanic Garden of Wales in Camarthenshire offers a huge range of sensory experiences. From the Apothecary’s Garden and Hall where you can take in the fragrances of a variety of healing herbs, to the warmth of the Great Glasshouse. The gardens also offers a sensory trail too where visitors and encouraged to touch and smell plants throughout the garden.
And, if you’re looking for a sensory day out in Scotland, Logan Botanic Garden is home to a large variety of exotic plants. It enjoys an almost subtropical climate, and is ideal for those looking for a stroll in peace and quiet.
Summer activities for the elderly in care homes or at-home
Start a book club
Whether it’s just for yourself and the person you’re caring for, or you invite others to join in, coming together regularly to read and chat about a book can keep the mind active, and help to form friendships.
Book clubs can be held anywhere, be it outside in the garden, or by a sunny window. Choosing books along a summer or holiday theme can help evoke memories and enrich the senses too.
Helping local wildlife
According to the RSPB, over 406 species of birds can be found in the UK. Feeding birds can be an enjoyable way to bring nature to the garden, the sound of birdsong is also naturally relaxing, and can even be made into a game by identifying the calls of different species.
Simple bird feeders can be made by melting lard and mixing with seeds and fruits, or by pushing seeds into apples and hanging them from a tree.
Hedgehogs are also summertime visitors that are enjoyable to watch, and benefit greatly from an extra snack. If possible to do so, set out some dog food or dried mealworms and a camera at night to capture their visits.
If your loved one has a garden or patio, you can create a small pond to attract wildlife together, all you need is a plastic tub, some gravel and rocks, and some aquatic plants or pond weed to keep the water clean. You can even purchase ready made kits if you’d prefer, so of which come with solar powered water features.
Sitting in the garden and working on a scrapbook is both fun, and has a wide range of health benefits. Sorting through old photos and momentos can spark memories and conversation – you may even learn something new about your loved one’s life . Cutting and sticking, or pressing flowers can help motor skills, and scrapbooking can also have a calming effect – reducing blood pressure and heart rate.
And, for a someone living in a care home or receiving live-in care, it’s also a great opportunity for their carers to learn more about their life, experiences, and interests too.
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