On an average year in Chicago we can expect nearly 30 days of snowfall according to data from Current Results — amounting to about 37 inches of the white stuff, overall!
Even if you absolutely love living in a winter wonderland, it’s hard to deny that winter in Illinois can mean a lot of snow and ice, as well as plenty of days and nights marked by freezing temperatures and blustery winds.
During the long winter season, it’s easy to start feeling like you’re trapped in a snow globe! For people of all ages, the winter weather can lead to cabin fever, as well as a serious case of the wintertime blues. This is particularly true for many seniors, who may feel isolated or cut off during the winter months — and who often face unique health challenges due to frigid winter temperatures, including an increased risk for hypothermia.
One way to help make it through the seasonal slump is to find ways for the whole family to be mentally and physically active, together! Here are seven classic winter activities that can help your elderly loved ones enjoy themselves in the winter while remaining mentally sharp, physically active, and socially engaged:
1.) Head for the Indoor Pool
If your community has an aquatic center or an indoor pool, this can be a great place for seniors to get a break from the dreary winter weather, while getting the chance to be active and physically engaged.
Many aquatic centers and pools have classes and sessions specifically meant for the elderly, focusing on beneficial activities like water walking and water aerobics, which can both help seniors increase their flexibility and keep up their strength. If your older loved one is up to it, they may also benefit from swimming laps; for seniors who are healthy enough to swim, this classic pastime is a great way to get some cardio and work on their “endurance” — one of the core focus areas recommended by the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Even getting the chance to relax in a hot tub or sauna might be beneficial for seniors. Many aquatic centers also have classes and times geared at kids, making it a great place for the whole family to enjoy a chilly day indoors.
2.) Grow an Indoor Garden
The weather outside may be frightful… but growing plants and flowers indoors can be oh-so-delightful! Gardening is a fulfilling and rejuvenating activity with plenty of healthy benefits for seniors.
Gardening indoors is a rewarding activity that can help provide purpose and give older adults a sense of meaning. It is a naturally calming activity that gives seniors the opportunity to focus, and has been shown to help decrease seniors’ risk for heart attack and stroke, increase strength and range of motion, and relieve stress. Plus, there are plenty of benefits to having healthy and robust plants inside. Houseplants and flowers can add a pleasing pop of color to any space, and can even help purify the air in your home. Studies have also shown that getting the chance to spend any time seeing and interacting with nature can be enormously beneficial for seniors, and can be restorative for those suffering from pain or chronic illness.
3.) Break Out the Puzzles and Board Games
Looking to help your loved one stay mentally sharp? Playing games with family, friends, or a senior companion can be a great way for your loved one to feel connected to others, while getting the chance to work on their concentration and problem solving skills.
Studies have shown that playing games can help older adults boost their memory and cognition; it’s also a great way to help seniors loosen up socially, participate in conversations, and enjoy quality time with kids and grandkids.
There are plenty of fun games perfect for seniors and their loved ones, including…
- Chess and checkers
- Board games
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Word games
- Card games
… and so many more! There’s never a wrong time to take a look in your cabinet and start thinking of all the fun games you and your loved ones can play throughout the winter months.
4.) Get Physical at Home
There are plenty of ways for older adults to stay active and get some much-needed exercise, without having to venture out into that wintertime tundra.
For instance, the winter months can be a great time to help your older loved ones get active and take care of chores and activities around the house, like decorating for the holidays; cleaning; organizing and decluttering; or taking on some home projects that can increase their safety, liking swapping out lightbulbs, rearranging furniture, or adding handlebars to the bathroom.
For older adults looking to get in their exercise, taking some simple steps like walking back and forth through the hallway can have an impact. There are also all sorts of invigorating, helpful exercises that you and your loved one can take up in the comfort and safety of home, like:
- Tai Chi
- Weight lifting (or using resistance bands)
- Dancing to your loved one’s favorite music
- Simple stretches
- Chair exercises
5.) Bake Up a Storm
Nothing brings people together quite like food! Gathering around the dinner table is a wonderful tradition at any time of the year, and it feels even more special during the lead up to the holiday season. Working together in the kitchen can be a great way to encourage your loved one to connect with friends and family; it’s a great way to encourage your elderly loved one to reflect on the past, reminisce, and share their traditions and stories with the next generation. Plus, studies have shown that getting the chance to share a meal with others can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction, and can even help older adults get the nutrients they need.
During the winter months, ask your senior loved one about their favorite cold weather recipes. This might mean hearty pasta dishes, rich roasts, or tasty baked goods and desserts. Work together to create a dish that the whole family will love, assigning tasks for everyone. Kids could help with simple tasks like mixing and measuring, while the elderly adults in the family might be best served by supervising, setting the table, and helping do dishes after the meal is served.
6.) Get Crafty
The benefits of art therapy are well-documented. For seniors, getting the chance to work on creative projects can promote cognitive function, improve motor skills, and reduce stress and anxiety. Similarly, learning a new skill — such as working on a foreign language, or playing an instrument — can also do wonders for helping older adults engage their minds as they age.
This season, let your household’s imagination run wild! There are all sorts of arts and crafts projects perfect for everyone from age nine to age ninety-nine, like:
- Painting or sketching a winter landscape or indoor still-life
- Knitting or crocheting a scarf or blanket
- Designing and filling snowglobes
- Creating holiday decorations, like centerpieces, ornaments, or wreaths
- Creating flower arrangements (with real or artificial flowers)
7.) Explore Your Community
During the winter months, many community organizations and institutions hold free or reduced-price days, perfect for helping your loved one go out and enjoy the culture of their area, without having to spend an arm and a leg! Some ideas for simple, enjoyable winter outings may include heading to the movie theater, visiting a local museum or gallery, or attending events at a nearby community center. There’s no telling what incredible opportunities may be going on near you this winter!
When you do go out, make sure your loved one is bundled up in layers, and keep a first aid kit with you. In some cases, it may help to work with a professional senior companion, who can help provide transportation services and lend a helping hand to your senior loved one during excursions or family gatherings.
Companions for Seniors Can Help Your Family Make the Most of Winter
Looking for support in giving your senior loved one the personalized care they need to truly thrive during the chilly days of winter? Have any questions about helping your loved one stay safe and healthy while remaining independent, all year long? We’re here to help!
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home, by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home.
If you have any questions about helping your parents enjoy themselves while they age in place, don’t hesitate to get in touch online or give us a call at 866-910-9020 to get the conversation started. We’re here to offer guidance and provide support, in whatever way we can!