Staying physically active has many health benefits for all ages. However, seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia can have physical and mental limitations, including problems with coordination, depression, or endurance. Memory support programs can help seniors discover and enjoy various activities tailored to their ability level.
Memory care staff can work with seniors to find hobbies or exercises they find the most rewarding. To start, here are 10 physical activities for seniors in memory care.
Gardening can improve memory, boost mood, improve sleep, and reduce stress. Group gardening introduces socializing. Expanding your plant yield is easier when you team up with a club or neighbors. Growing something can help seniors feel a sense of accomplishment.
Most gardening activities, such as watering, weeding, or ranking, are considered light to moderate exercise. However, potting, shoveling, and digging can be strenuous. It can also involve repetitive, muscle-strengthening tasks. Memory care staff can help scale the work for beginners so seniors won’t feel overwhelmed.
Music therapy has emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Listening to or making music can access areas of the brain undamaged by the disease.
Some notable benefits of music include:
- Easing agitation
- Reducing anxiety
- Reducing depression
- Relieving stress
Seniors can combine the benefits of listening to music with moving to music. It’s also easy to set your activity level to match your skill level or physical ability. For example, dancing can be exhilarating or easy, formal or silly.
Some seniors may enjoy structured dance lessons, like salsa or line dancing. Others may prefer interpreting moves with the rhythm, allowing themselves to enjoy the moment. Dancing can be a group or solo activity, but adding some socializing can encourage participation.
Walking is an easy exercise to scale according to an individual’s abilities. Seniors can keep the pace slow and steady with some light exercise. Walking can be especially beneficial for fair-weathered days when seniors can enjoy a leisurely stroll surrounded by nature. It can also quickly become a wildlife or bird-watching opportunity.
When possible, it’s best to walk areas with limited traffic, such as nature paths, instead of roadside trails. Many memory care communities can access outdoor spaces that help seniors avoid overstimulation.
Seniors with limited mobility can still benefit from a nature break. Even sitting outside is a chance to soak up some vitamin D to boost mood.
4. Tai Chi
Tai chi is a gentle form of Chinese martial arts focused on muscle control, balance, and meditation. As a result, seniors can improve their stability and flexibility. The movements are slow and gentle, allowing older adults to work on their endurance without feeling overwhelmed. Regularly practicing tai chi can also reduce pain and the risk of falls.
As with many of the recommended physical activities on our list, seniors can practice tai chi alone. However, practicing with a group is always encouraged.
Swimming is an excellent activity for seniors. It’s gentle on the joints, increases flexibility, and can help develop balance. Swimming is an aerobic activity that works the whole body.
By engaging arms, legs, core, and other muscle groups, seniors can tone muscles, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep. Additionally, swimming strengthens the lungs and heart, training the body to use oxygen more efficiently.
Swimming is a good choice for seniors in memory care, as dedicated staff and caregivers are available to provide supervision.
6. Chair Exercising
Seated exercises allow seniors to worry less about falls and concentrate on the activity. In addition, repetitive movements can help strengthen muscles and improve balance. It’s also simple to scale the amount of exercise to a comfortable level.
Some examples of seated exercises include:
- Bicycling the legs
- Clapping under the legs
- Making arm circles
- Marching in place
- Practicing moving from sitting to standing
- Raising arms towards the ceiling
- Raising heels and toes
- Raising the opposite arm and leg
- Turning side to side
Bowling combines weight-lifting, repetitive movement, and competition. Seniors can also practice their coordination and motor skills. It’s a fun way to keep moving. There are multiple ways seniors can partake in bowling, from beating their best score to competing with a team.
Notably, bowling is an activity the whole family can enjoy. Friends or family members can relish their time with their loved ones while promoting exercise.
Another option for making a simple game a form of exercise is horseshoe. Like bowling, friends and family can easily join without worrying about understanding the rules. Making it a group activity also encourages seniors to participate, as having a workout buddy—or game buddy—can make the experience more entertaining.
You can substitute a game of horseshoe for a ring toss or more manageable objects, like a bean bag.
9. Sing-a-Long Routines
Remember learning sing-a-long routines as a kid? Well–known examples include:
- “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
- “If You’re Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands)”
- “Chicken Dance (Bird Song)”
Most people will probably recognize one or 2 energizing tunes with easy-to-follow coordinated moves. But there are also countless tunes with a set of repetitive, sometimes silly, dances.
We’ve already mentioned the benefits of music and dancing. Practicing a simple, repetitive dance routine can be an exercise and a game. Singing a long with something familiar can be amusing, but learning a new routine can act as combined memory and exercise activity.
10. Golf & Croquet
Golf and croquet are sports that can act as low-intensity workouts. The games similarly combine walking with some coordination skills. Seniors can also enjoy both as solo activities but will probably gain more with the added socializing.
Some health benefits of golf or croquet include:
- Aerobic fitness
- Balance & core stability
- Endurance & strength
- Stress reduction
Staying Active in Memory Care
At Fox Trail in Princeton, we strive to help our residents lead enriching, healthy lives. Staying physically active is essential for maintaining well-being at any age. Still, it can be more challenging for seniors with memory or health issues.
No matter your loved one’s level of fitness or abilities, our compassionate staff is dedicated to providing activities that help residents feel valued and safe. Contact us today to learn more and request a visit to see our thriving community.