The AgingCare.com forum is filled with caregivers and experts who come together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled some of their best ideas for encouraging a senior to participate in hobbies and activities, and insights on knowing when to let a loved one be.

Motivating Seniors to Stay Involved

“My mom is no longer willing to be in settings where everyone else seems faster and more independent than she is (senior centers), but she’s not happy around people who are so much more visibly deteriorated than she is (adult day health care). So, she stays home with my husband and me. It seems that she just watches TV and withdraws more and more from interacting with the world around her. But, she seems to be content, appreciating the meals she is given, the hugs and prayers at bedtime, the fact that accidents are cleaned up without a fuss (usually), and that we can choose clothes for the day together or she can decide to stay in her nightie and robe. So, while I keep wanting to take her for an outing, she keeps telling me she would rather just stay home. When we do go out to the aquarium or the arboretum, by the time we are driving home, she has forgotten where we’ve been, has no recollection of anything we’ve seen, and ‘feels a nap coming on.’ I am getting better at accepting her wishes at face value and just trying to keep her needs met at home. I have to admit I feel guilty about not doing more. She is so easy and pleasant that I want to enrich her life, but she didn’t hire me as her social secretary. She just wants a loving daughter around as she navigates a phase of life I have no experience with.” –lindabf

“The problem isn’t that seniors don’t want to do things; they just don’t feel like it. Their bodies are tired and their minds are heavy. My mom is 90 and used to be very pleasant to be around, but this has all changed. Now we just go out and garden. Mainly she instructs me on what she wants done. I have actually learned quite a lot from her about this and have started my very own garden at my home. When we come inside, she says, ‘now I’m tired, don’t talk to me. Just let me rest.’ ” –pamela6148

“My mom has Alzheimer’s and is becoming increasingly withdrawn. She doesn’t want to do anything but watch TV all day, even though she has a home health care provider in the daytime. She has become increasingly rude and disrespectful, too. I figure it’s due to depression and boredom from being stuck at home all day. She also began trying to run the show and annoy her provider! So, I created a daily schedule on a huge sticky note paper pad (posted in her bedroom and her provider takes it from room to room so it’s always visible) that can be followed to break up the day. It includes two ‘Activity’ time slots, a Bible Study and Prayer time slot, and a daily walk. She now has a wake up time, snack times, lunch time, TV time, etc. I kept most activities to 30 minutes in length due to her limited attention span. TV time is anywhere from 1 hour to 90 minutes, so her provider can either do the cleaning/washing or meal prep while mom watches her favorite shows. The first day we implemented the schedule, my mom put up a fight and told her provider she was fired! Thankfully, dementia patients quickly forget why they were angry, and life goes on like it never happened. I am grateful for all the ideas I found to occupy my mom during her scheduled ‘Activity’ time. In addition, because my mom is very, very, stubborn and will often get into verbal arguments with her caregiver, I had to implement a ‘rewards system’ with the daily schedule so she will behave. She has to earn a set amount of gold stars by Friday in order to be driven to her favorite store to shop on Saturday or eat at her favorite restaurant after church on Sunday. The rewards system is posted on the chart. NOTE: I have never taken away the ‘rewards’ if she doesn't have enough gold stars. I solely use them as a motivator during the week so she has something to ‘earn.’ This also makes the day less boring, and tempers her ornery behavior. It’s working!” –Agfoley

“With my mom (96), I found if I would say, ‘Do you want to do this or that?’ she’d say no, she was too tired. I changed my strategy to say, ‘We’re doing this or that.’ I’d get her dressed and we’d go. Sometimes she’d fuss and say she didn’t want to go, but if she was OK, I’d push. Once she got out, she always had a good time (and would say so afterwards).” –blannie

“My Mom was always a real introvert, and when she transitioned to the nursing home, that didn’t change. In retrospect, I don't know what we were thinking, constantly trying to get her to participate and leave her room when she never did that when she was living on her own. I think you have to work with what you’ve got. For example, I like to read. That’s a solitary activity, so when I’m elderly, I hope everyone will just leave me alone with my book.” –Gershun

“Can you afford for them to go to a senior day care program? Was there a hobby they were once interested in? Provide the supplies for them to be involved in. If you have provided options and things for them to do, and they still refuse to do them, then you are no longer responsible for their boredom.” –suethequilter

“I will tell you ‘from the other side of experience’ that your loved one’s happiness is not your burden. Nobody owns the happiness of another person. With brain changes, happiness may not be what it used to be anyway. I had to learn that the hard way and let that goal go. My goals for my mom turned into her safety and her physical wellbeing. She takes anti-psychotics now to control anger and paranoia. She takes anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants, too. This does not all equal happy. Mom could be in the good Lord’s penthouse and still not be happy, so seeking that is a fool’s errand.” –sandwich42plus

“It is very important when we try to get our elders/spouses to participate that they believe it is THEIR idea to do so. I found it helpful to just START a project and then ask my mom for her help! This seemed to work better than just putting something in front of her. Seniors may no longer understand how to begin, even with something VERY simple. If they do not know what is expected, nothing may transpire. Just try to get the ball rolling.” –MiaMadre