Seniors with limited mobility have the same needs people as people with regular mobility: Social contact, muscle movement, sunlight, and engaged brain, just to name a few.
While mobility limitations can make it more difficult to get up and go, there are many activities a person can do to prevent boredom and keep their bodies and minds engaged. Let’s explore some of the ideas below:
Visiting a Garden
Assisted living and nursing homes often have gardens with benches, complete with a courtyard and something for shade.
Simply being outside is a step in the right direction for many seniors who are welcoming spring and summer. The sunlight of being outside near a garden is a great opportunity to absorb some Vitamin D and allow their circadian rhythm to know that daylight is there.
Gardens also attract a bit of wildlife, including birds and potentially rabbits and ducks, if near water.
Without a garden immediately nearby, it’s possible to get a ride with your local senior transportation groups that visit homes and elderly residences
If mobility is limited and it’s too cold to visit the garden, also consider some Vitamin D products.
Playing Brain Games
Want an inexpensive workout for the most important (or second most important?) muscle in your body: the brain?
Having issues with movement gives you an excellent chance to use your head to open up new cognitive pathways and exercise old ones.
Games like brain teasers, Sudoku, quizzes, and word searches can be bought for a couple of dollars at most grocery stores or even ordered online for delivery. These kinds of games exercise your ability to follow some instructions and use words and numbers in different ways. They also often require only simple writing skills and a pencil or pen.
Brain games can also be lots of fun to do with a friend or partner helping you figure out the answers.
Learning a Language
Learning a new language can be fun for people with limited mobility. You can often find a book or a phone application that walks you through basic vocabulary and the ability to pronounce and use a different sentence structure.
A new language can help you communicate better with people who don’t speak English. You can also make someone who speaks a language like Spanish or French, but less English, feel more at home. Imagine being a bit lonely because others don’t understand what you are saying - but being able to speak to someone in your native language - and even teach a few words.
It goes without saying that reading is a great way to pass the time while immersing yourself in a different world, facts, faith, or anything really. People can certainly pass lots of time while reading - a really good book is hard to get away from!
Books can also be found in most assisted living places library, from a public library, or bought at a store or online. The possibilities are literally endless. You can relive history or see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Speaking of eyes, reading can be a bit more difficult in some rooms without properly lighting. Consider getting a desk lamp or one that can go near you to light a book well. We recommend one like this.
Book clubs are also great for social gatherings. Sitting around and talking about literature and experiences is a fine way to make time zoom by.
Watching Movies and Television
Movies and televisions are a good outlet for people who are limited in their movement. Consider combining the above recommendation for reading with movies. Find movies based on books and read the book, then watch the movie, or the other way around.
See how books and movies compare. Which made you feel differently about characters? Which settings were different than you imagined when reading?
Movies can also be easy to find with a library, TV, DVD player, or streaming service. Invite someone over to enjoy a movie they might like.
Don’t have great hearing? We can help with that.
Listening to Audiobooks
Got headphones or some speakers? Audiobooks are a nice balance between movies, TV, and reading. A good voice actor can bring an audiobook to life and be super helpful if your eyes are tired and you don’t want to read.
Learning to play an instrument
You can learn to play an instrument, even if your walking is limited. Drums, guitar, or any woodwind instrument are possible so long as you can breathe and move your hands a bit. Learning to play an instrument can certainly be a challenge, but one you might have the time to overcome and teach others.
Guitars are also often reasonably inexpensive and can be bought used. Video, audio, and reading lessons are often available for free or cheap too.
Thankfully, most art is very easy to do even when your legs and arms aren’t cooperating. Making art for your walls or just for fun includes painting, drawing, watercolor, and many more options. Some are as simple as a pencil and paper - but a trip or order to an art store might help you stock up on specifics.
Another great option for seniors is clay. Clay is nicely textured, soft, and can be made into many useful things like a bowl, cup, either for yourself or someone else. With a kiln present, you can also make the clay very durable and even waterproof.
Using your fingers and hands (or even your feet if you want to paint with them) can also help you maintain manual dexterity. The ability to hold a paintbrush or pencil is not far from the movements to tie shoes.
Art can also jog your memory. What did your old house or dog look like? Can you paint it by memory then compare it to a photo?
Playing Board games
Board games are great, especially with friends or relatives. Games like chess, checkers, Risk, Monopoly, and many, many others keep your brain sharp and can exercise your motor skills in small ways while you are laid up.
Board games are also perfect for social interaction because rules need to be discussed and many conversations can be had while waiting your turn - or during your turn.
Remembering board game rules is a great way to make a strategy and even teach someone else how to play better.
Many nursing residencies have some board games available.
Asking for a visit
Especially if you are only temporarily on limited mobility, you might want to ask friends or family to visit - invite them over! Some family and friends can be cautious of offering to visit right away, or not know what’s happening and let others come see you for a bit.
Does someone have friendly kids or a friendly dog? Invite them over so you can interact and give a small animal a big hug. Interaction can uplift the spirit and dogs are certainly man’s best friend.
You might be mixed about asking people to visit - in part because you cannot move especially well. Worry less about this and more about finding a way to get uplifting social interaction. Think more about who is willing to come see you and chat and less about those who are not available.
Cooking & Baking
Do you have access to a kitchen, or are you less than mobile at home? Got some money for ingredients? Try your hand and cooking or baking.
Food and cooking is a wonderful way to connect with people. Make some cookies and invite the neighbors over. A salad is also easy to make even when you can’t move all that well. Some of the hand movements needed while making bread, pastries, cookies, and the like are also helpful in strengthening your hands and arms. If your mobility is more restricted in your legs, you can work on strengthening those muscles later.
Also, very few people will miss a chance to chit chat and try some cookies. Even if the recipe is modified for lower sugar.
Getting some exercise
We know that the sound of getting exercise might sound more difficult depending on your level of mobility, but it’s even more important now.
Using your muscles is key to maintaining their strength. Even if this means using a walker down a hallway and going slow. Slow is fine so long as you are moving.
Move until you are tired. Being tired means your muscles were used well and tells you that you might be ready for a break.
A couple of options for arm exercises include lifting small weights or using elastic bands to strengthen your forearms and biceps. Lifting things with the top of your feet also gives you the chance to maintain balance and strengthen your calves and thighs.
Your ankles are a great place to start with small weights like these.
Assembling Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles can be surprisingly fun, especially if you like the subject matter, see the details, and can get into them. There isn’t anything quite like completing a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that covers nearly your entire table.
Jigsaw puzzles can also take a while to put together and are great when you have some time to spend. Consider getting a jigsaw puzzle of flowers, trains, cars, or anything else you like. You’ll need some finger mobility to place pieces.
One of the best parts of jigsaw puzzles is teaming up with someone to complete one. Unless one of you has a schedule, there isn’t a time limit on a jigsaw puzzle. You can stop, chat, and interrupt yourselves as much as you need - they aren’t exactly a competition either - unless you make it into one!
Volunteering is an excellent way to pass time when you can’t otherwise go too far.
Helping someone out can be as simple as contacting local charities and organizations that offer others support. Ask them what they need, and you could start making phone calls to check in on people or use an existing hobby like knitting to make someone less fortunate warm gloves for the winter.
Learning about other people’s needs can make you feel good about yourself when your mobility isn’t providing the same comfort. Just know there are people out there who could use a helping phone call or even small items that you can help make.
Helping others physically
Especially if you are in an assisted or independent living facility, you don’t need to be able to move well to give someone else a hand or foot massage. A massage can relieve another’s tensions while giving you a chance to catch up and chat.
You might also be surprised at how you can both build on your own strength and help soothe someone’s muscles at the same time. We do suggest cleaning people’s feet before a foot rub as they are often dry anyway.
Oil for a foot massage can also help you dig in a bit deeper without using too much strength and makes both of you feel more comfortable.
Writing your story
Or record your story. Having limited mobility gives you time to reflect on your life and remember all the stories you want to share about the things you’ve done and accomplished and how you feel about them.
Even if you think your story is boring, it’s exciting to someone else, especially your family. Even after raising your kids and maybe grandkids, there are still stories they won’t remember or want to hear again.
Taking the time to write your stories down or record them with a voice recorder or video can create a lasting memory for you and yours.
There are many activities to do when you aren’t so mobile. From reading to doing crafts and cooking, it’s possible to revisit old hobbies or find totally new ones in a time when others aren’t possible now. Find a nice way to balance watching TV or movies with volunteering and getting exercise - the exercise will be important in the long run to keep you limber and independent.