Julie Hayes is the Content Manager at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.
On any brisk winter day, it’s tempting to pull up the covers and hunker down, tucked away from the elements. This year, with the constraints of Covid-19, it’s even tougher to venture outdoors. In addition to the typical concerns of cold and flu season and severe weather, many favorite activities may not be an option. Sitting still with a blanket and cup of hot chocolate may feel like the best way to pass the day.
When it comes to your loved one, however, remaining active—both mentally and physically— is as crucial as ever. Easy as it may be under these conditions to slip into inactivity, it’s vital to keep moving to maintain energy and motivation. Staying active has a wide array of benefits for older adults. Exercising the body and brain can boost disease prevention, mental health, quality of life and general wellbeing. Daily activity can also help decrease the effects of the social isolation and winter blues which have affected many people as a result of Covid.
Following are a few ideas to help ensure that your loved one stays active this season:
1. Explore at-home exercise
Prior to Covid, your loved one might have enjoyed swimming at a local pool or attending an exercise class at the community senior center. If that’s not possible now, think about how to get your loved one moving at home. If there is enough room to spread out, you might want to look into online workouts. Many fitness YouTube channels have videos just for older adults, and organizations like SilverSneakers have also adapted by shifting classes to an online format during the pandemic. You could even include your loved one’s previous workout buddies, via a video sharing platform to make the experience more fun and engaging.
It’s important to consult your loved one’s physician first, in order to determine what activities would be safe and appropriate for him or her.
2. Tackle household tasks
Make a project of little chores your loved one may have pushed to the wayside. During downtime, plunging into these sorts of tasks can be a mood booster. Whether it’s organizing drawers or kitchen cabinets, or filling photo albums with new family snapshots, these simple chores can keep your loved one moving and occupied in a positive and productive way.
3. Include exercises for the mind
Having an active brain matters just as much as having an active body. Regular mental stimulation can be key in protecting against memory loss and in maintaining vital motor skills.
Memory boosting activities can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, and you can choose those you think your loved would like best. He or she might enjoy crossword puzzles, board games, puzzling out a solve-it-yourself mystery and answering trivia questions. In the spirit of lifelong learning, he or she could also watch a TED talk or a documentary, listen to audiobooks, or read an article on an unexplored topic.
4. Try virtual volunteering
Covid-19 hasn’t put an end to volunteering—it’s only altered the way we approach it. A myriad of options remain to assist others while adhering to Covid-19 guidelines, including purchasing toys or books for children in need or making blankets for veterans. At Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, we also have opportunities to make wellness calls or assist with essential meal deliveries. For more ideas, you may want to check out the virtual volunteering boards of VolunteerMatch and Points of Life.