Engaging Activities for Isolated Seniors

There are a number of awesome and engaging activities for isolated seniors to enjoy. No matter why you’re feeling isolated or lonely, we’re here to offer some exciting suggestions—to help protect your health and lift your spirits.

The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has had a large impact of social isolation on seniors, causing many to feel lonely, depressed, and anxious. If you feel like this, you’re not alone. There are many activities seniors can do at home, or close to it, that alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness in seniors. Read on to discover the many awesome activities you or a senior in your life may appreciate and benefit from.

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What is Senior Isolation?

Most of us live fairly busy lives—and so when it’s time for retirement, it can be a wonderful reset to slow down a bit, enjoy more time at home, and devote your energy to hobbies, such as volunteering, crafting, or spending time with loved ones.

Seniors and social isolation can be a result of a few different elements:

  • Mobility issues: Many seniors are socially isolated because they’re physically isolated. When mobility issues overtake a senior’s life, it can be challenging to regain independence and confidence. If you feel that mobility issues are connected to your isolation, consider ways to boost mobility. Some seniors might feel more confident with slip-proof shoes, getting a walker, or using a wheelchair.
  • Lack of transportation: Another common reason for isolation of seniors is a lack of transportation. In many rural areas when seniors are no longer able to drive, they become increasingly isolated—and even in urban areas, buses and subways can be overwhelming and confusing.
  • Living alone: Nearly one-third of all seniors live by themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—and while living alone doesn’t necessarily mean a senior will become isolated, the two often work in tandem.
  • COVID-19: A period of mass isolation had a particularly difficult impact on seniors. From not being able to see families to concerns about health safety, the pandemic took a definite toll and forced many seniors into isolation.
  • Lack of social interaction: Without social interaction, many seniors may feel isolated, lonely, and depressed. They may feel as though their quality of life is decreasing as well.

Seniors and isolation accompanied by feelings of loneliness is an ongoing issue—and the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the situation. A 2020 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered disturbing health risks associated with loneliness, including.

  • Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
  • Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
  • Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
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Social Activities to Reconnect Isolated Seniors

Despite physical isolation, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the company and companionship of others. In today’s world, social activities can happen anywhere. In fact, it’s more and more common for social gatherings to be held online as it’s a quick and easy way to spend time with people who can’t come together in person.

Plus, with a number of smartphone apps, web cameras built into home computers, and the ever-prevalent ease of Wifi and the internet, it’s easier than ever to stay connected—even when you may be physically in different places.

Here’s a few social isolation activities for seniors that can help you to stay united with your loved ones and friends—even if you’re apart.

Social Media

If you’re at home, it can be a great opportunity to connect with your loved ones via social media. With the use of social media, you can check up on your friends, follow along with your family’s activities, and even reconnect with old acquaintances.

Two great social media options to reduce social isolation of seniors include:

Facebook: In addition to friending friends, family members, and even people you attended high school or college with, you can also join community groups with shared interests. Whether you love knitting or you’re a dog lover, you can find a local community group for just about anything.

Instagram: Although a little bit more limited in giving you the ability to connect with new people, Instagram allows you to stay up to date with your family and friends through a visual feed of photographs. You can comment and “like” photos, letting your family and friends know that you’re enjoying their posts.

Playing Games Online

Playing games online can be a great opportunity to not only exercise your brain—but also socialize while you’re at it. If you love playing games, consider adding some online games to your rotation. While the experience is certainly a bit different when you play virtually, it can be a fun change of pace if you’re in the mood for a different experience.

Here are a few fun online game suggestions to consider to combat isolation in seniors:

  • Wordle: Like solving puzzles? This trendy word game has become popular recently. All you have to do is guess a word of the day in the least number of guesses possible. Each day, enjoy a new “Wordle” and try your hand at guessing the word of the day.
  • Words with Friends: One of the world’s most popular word games, Words with Friends is quite similar to Scrabble—but you can play virtually by taking turns. Just like in Scrabble or a crossword puzzle, you’ll build words from tiles and compete against friends and family, or you can be randomly matched with a virtual opponent.
  • Sudoku: Are you more of a numbers person? Sudoku is a logic-based number-placement puzzle. Try this online version on your computer.

Facetime With Family and Friends

If you’re in isolation, Facetime or Google Duo can be a great option to keep up with your family and friends. Although catching up with your friends and family via emails or text messages is great, it can be even better to connect via a video call.

Facetime, Skype, Google Duo, and Whatsapp are all effective software options that allow you to video chat with the people you love the most.

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In-Room Activities for Isolated Seniors

For seniors living in an assisted living facility or isolated to a single room, there are a number of in-room activities that can provide you with feelings of engagement and connection. If you’re running out of ideas, we’ve come up with some in-room activities for isolated seniors to help brighten up your day and allow you to explore more of the world around you.

Digital Travel

If you’re looking for hobbies for seniors to do at home, consider digital travel. In today’s digital age, you can enjoy digital sightseeing and travel from your own room! All you’ll need is a computer and access to the internet—and you can begin your adventures from the comfort of your room.

  • Armchair Travels: Armchair Travels provides you with the opportunity to explore places near and far through guided virtual tours of recorded content—all researched and curated by five award-winning travel writers. From antiquities to activities, you can enjoy some of the world’s most celebrated destinations.
  • Online Virtual Tours: From the Louvre to the Guggenheim and everything in between, explore this list of virtual tours provided by museums, zoos, and national parks.
  • Lonely Planet: In an age of unprecedented access to technology, there are thousands of ways to see the world from the comfort of your home. This list from LonelyPlanet shares details on the best museum tours, digital safaris, virtual hikes, famous landmarks, and much more.

In-Room Gardens

With the help of some house plants and terrariums, you can build an indoor garden for yourself. Adding thoughtful house plants to your space not only helps purify the air—but greenery brightens up indoor spaces and can have a mood-boosting quality. Some of the easiest indoor plants to care for include Pothos, Philodendron, and most succulents.

Make Art

There are plenty of creative solo activities for seniors to do at home—and if you’re feeling socially isolated, artistic creation can be incredibly rewarding. From drawing and painting to mosaics and scrapbooking, making art during a period of social isolation gives you a creative outlet—and may even result in profound work.

  • Drawing and painting projects: From watercolor sunsets to modern art, purchase some paper and paints from your local craft store and start looking for inspiration!
  • Coloring books: There are a number of beautiful and intricate coloring books made intentionally for adults. These can be deeply relaxing and meditative—if you struggle with feelings of anxiety or worry, some coloring books focus on stress-relieving patterns to quiet the mind.
  • Mosaics: Mosaic can be a fun, creative opportunity to explore. You’ll need quite a few supplies, such as mosaic tiles, sandpaper, adhesive, grout, gloves, and a sponge. The possibilities for creation are nearly endless—make a tabletop, a planter, a picture frame, or simply art to hang on the wall.
  • Scrapbooking: If you have archives of old photos lying around, experiment with scrapbooking! Not only does this provide a fun creative outlet but it also gives you the opportunity to tell your family history and create family memorabilia for the future.
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Activities for Isolated Seniors at Home

Looking for activities for seniors at home? If you’re isolated at home, don’t worry: There are plenty of fun hobbies and activities for isolated seniors you can enjoy. From putting together your own movie night to diving into your book list, the possibilities are endless.

Have a Theater Night

Turn your home into a theater for the night by watching a movie or live-streaming a concert. Here’s what you can do to set yourself up for a festive theater experience. Snag some of your favorite snacks (popcorn, anyone?) and then rent a movie you’ve always wanted to see—or an old classic you want to revisit. Elevate your experience by turning off all your lights, grabbing your coziest blanket, and making sure all your snacks and beverages are within reach.

If you’re not a big movie person, don’t worry. Thanks to the pandemic, there are more concerts and events than ever before live-streamed—so you can enjoy a wide variety of experiences without leaving the comfort of your home.

Read a Book

Combat feelings of social isolation by engaging with the literary world. Whether you have plenty of books on your reading list or you’re searching for your next page-turner, pick your next read. Enjoying literature and books is a comfortable and mentally-engaging experience that not only alleviates feelings of loneliness—but also keeps your mind sharp.

If you’re a big book lover, then you might consider joining a virtual book club through your local library or bookstore. You can also head over to your Facebook groups to search for book clubs or reading discussions. Then, you can stay connected and engaged with people with similar interests.

Start a Fish Tank

Fish tanks can bring a great amount of joy into your life, particularly if you’re navigating feelings of isolation. Small fish tanks are easy to set up and maintain—and watching the fish swim around and explore can feel both stress-relieving and tranquil. In fact, studies have shown that having a fish tank can help lower blood pressure, especially in seniors (That’s why you see so many medical centers with a fish tank in the waiting room!).

If you or a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, observing fish swimming in their habitat can be a significant help. One study found that residents with an aquarium had improved appetites, required fewer supplements, and were able to communicate better with those around them.

Most fish are very easy to care for, especially if you’re dealing with mobility issues. Low-maintenance fish are just as entertaining and enjoyable as other pets—and their impact on your mental and physical well-being can have a tremendous effect.

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Outdoor Activities to Combat Senior Isolation

Getting outdoors can be a highly beneficial strategy to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. There are a number of outdoor activities for isolated seniors that can be a great way to meet and make new friends or simply reconnect with old ones.

One reminder: Make sure to dress properly for the weather and don’t forget to let your loved ones know where you’re headed. Something as simple as wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes for a long afternoon walk can quickly turn a happy outing into a miserable trip—so plan ahead and prepare for the experience.

If you’re excited about the possibilities of outdoor activities, here are a few of our favorite ways to get outside.

Visit or Volunteer at an Animal Shelter

Visiting or volunteering at a local animal shelter can be a wonderful experience for seniors struggling with feelings of social isolation. Many shelters need volunteers to sit with and pet anxious animals who are looking for a little bit of comfort and companionship. If you love animals, research local animal shelters in your area and find out if they’re looking for volunteers.

Take a Nature Walk

Going to your local park or botanical garden can be a great way to get outdoors, interact with friends or loved ones, and combat feelings of isolation. Being in nature has a tremendously positive impact on your mental health as well. Large, public botanical gardens are often well-kept, making them easy to navigate and accessible for anyone suffering from mobility challenges. Spending time in nature can help you feel more energetic, in touch with your body, and can even improve your creativity.

Learn a Gentle Sport

Learning a gentle sport not only helps you get outside but it also helps increase your physical fitness, emotional resilience, and might even help you make a new friend or two. Here are a few of our favorite sports that are gentle on your body but still allow you to get moving.

  • Swimming: Most pools offer lap swim periods where you can swim however many laps your body desires. With some adult swim lessons offered, you can improve your skills or stick to what you know. Lap swimming also offers you the ability to be as social as you’d like—chat with others nearby or swim without social interaction. It’s up to you!
  • Tai-Chi and Yoga: Both of these slow-moving classes enhance strength and flexibility. They are usually taught in a group setting, which can give you a new opportunity to socialize and make new friends.
  • Pickleball and Golf: These sports require a bit more practice to find your proficiency. If you like to compete and spend time outside, these are the perfect sports to add to your weekly schedule!

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