Hobbies and Activities for Seniors: Tips from Family Caregivers


As family caregivers, we strive to find ways to keep our loved ones happy and healthy. While the medical aspect of providing care certainly isn’t a walk in the park, finding recreational activities and hobbies for our senior loved ones can be a comparable challenge. Any number of mental and physical conditions can affect their ability to participate in and enjoy new interests and lifelong passions. Encouraging them to engage in and pursue these things can lead to an ongoing battle and substantial guilt for family members who wish to provide them with vital stimulation and happiness.

Spending time with one another is an obvious solution, but many caregivers find themselves acting as their loved one’s sole source of socialization and entertainment. Such a dynamic may be unavoidable for those caring for someone who cannot be left unsupervised, for example, due to advancing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. But when a caregiver and care recipient form an unnecessarily dependent relationship, it can seriously complicate their interactions and hinder the family member’s ability to carry out daily activities and seek out respite.

So what is a caregiver to do when they are in serious need for a few free hours a day to see to errands and household responsibilities, let alone care for themselves? How do we lovingly urge our aging loved ones to take the initiative to seek out their own sources of happiness? How can we tell if their apathy or refusal stems from plain old stubbornness or deeper issues like depression? When should we choose to step back and stop pushing them to break out of their comfort zone and “enjoy” life?

All of these issues are addressed below through the words and suggestions of fellow caregivers in AgingCare.com’s various Support Groups. Explore activity suggestions for booklovers, patients with dementia, and seniors who are blind or have low vision. There are suggestions for crafts, household activities that can contribute to their sense of purpose, daytime care and respite programs, technological devices, and more. Lastly, experienced members provide their insights on what to do when a loved one refuses to participate or no longer shows any interest in social and recreational activities. Depression or insecurities may need to be addressed with their physician, they may just need some tough love or encouragement, or it could very well be time to give up the fight. Regardless of your situation, you are likely to find some guidance and helpful advice from caregivers’ words of wisdom below.

Activities for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

“Activities depend on the loved one’s level of dementia. Some people are still able to do things like read, do puzzles, watch TV, tend to plants, etc., but some are not. I found that unless there is a person leading, directing and involving the patient, they may not have the insight or motivation to engage in an activity. I'd keep in mind that the things our loved ones used to do might no longer be possible, due to them forgetting how and/or not being able to focus on mental tasks. I've had some people suggest to me that the loved one locate the red buttons in a large jar of assorted buttons. This can engage them for a good while, but the patient may need to be supervised, since they may put the buttons in their mouth and that could be risky. I have seen these activity boards that you can purchase online. They sit in the person's lap or on a table and have various tasks on them, like buttons, zippers, and Velcro, and include things that have different textures and even make sounds. They are designed specifically for people with dementia. It's aimed at keeping a person's hands busy and providing mental stimulation. However, keep in mind that depending on their level, some patients would just ignore that device and not find it interesting at all.” –Sunnygirl1

“We have a shredder, and, while I do have to keep an eye on her, it is Mum’s favorite toy. She will shred anything (and everything if I look the other way). The radio will be something they are familiar with from their youth, so try and find a station that plays older music. Videos are a good idea as long as you start them. Mum likes musicals best, especially the old ones with people like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. You could also get all the photos you have and ask them to put them in an album for you. It doesn't matter about the order, since you can sort that later, and you would have something to talk about together. In actual fact it was only through looking at very old photos that I found out bits and pieces about the family.” –PhoenixDaughter

“When my mother stayed with me, I was challenged to keep her active and happy without making it seem like 'work'. We 'cooked' together with SAFE utensils and complete caution. My brothers could not believe that I was letting her cook! My mother cooked her whole life, so the actions were deeply ingrained in her mind. We watched cooking shows, and in the kitchen I would have a 'crock pot' of similar scented items cooking to match what they were making on the shows. She would help me put a casserole together or set the table (melamine dishes, nothing breakable). She felt part of the process, ate much, much more, was happier and our home never smelled so good! Oh, and the meals were great. I would also let her 'wash' the dishes, and when she was done, I would pop them in the dishwasher. She thought that was where they were kept, so she was none the wiser.” –MiaMadre

“My dad had a stroke, which left him with limited mobility, and he also has mild dementia. He was doing nothing but sleeping, eating and watching TV for a while. Dad has always liked repairing things, so I started buying small appliances like alarm clocks for just a few dollars from thrift stores. I tell him they are not working properly and ask him to take a look at them. He will take each item apart and work on them for hours. A hand mixer kept him busy for several days. Dad seems to really enjoy this and it gives him a sense of accomplishment. He no longer says, ‘I am useless and I can't do anything anymore.’ ” –Dadscaregiver1

“Will your loved one remember that they did the same job the day before? Try sorting or matching projects. Examples could be cards with envelopes that have been separated and need to be matched, writing the alphabet on large index cards ‘for the library,’ etc. Another thing to consider is the length of time they can stay focused on a task, so don't make projects last too long. Maybe purchase a few small boxes of new crayons and dump them into a large box. Tell them they need to be sorted ‘for the children at school’ and have them match colors and put them in a baggie or rubber band.” –Anne1017

“My nephew recently mentioned that his dad with Parkinson's liked snap-together building blocks. If your loved one with dementia still has small-muscle coordination, Legos might be worth a try. There are blocks of many sizes and complexities available. Sorting a shuffled deck of cards might be entertaining, too, or sorting out a bunch of mixed decks.” –partsmom

“One of the many things dementia seems to rob people of is initiative. My mother will sit and color with me. She'll sort beads by color when I lay out the equipment for her. She plays cards with another daughter. But she does not color when she is alone, and she doesn't ask an aide for the beads to sort. If someone gets her started, she is fine.” –jeannegibbs

“Basically it is a process of trial and error. My mom’s only enjoyment was cooking, so I will give her a head of garlic, let her break up the bulb into a big plastic bowl, take all the pieces apart and sort them. That will last her a good 10 to 15 minutes, sometimes longer. However, she will ask me ten times if she is doing it right! Also pets are great therapy; brushing them, petting them, talking to them, etc. Humor is a very good tool. My mom gets hysterical watching shows like The Golden Girls and Seinfeld. These things just keep their hands and minds busy without too much effort. Doll therapy is good too. Get a realistic baby doll with some outfits and accessories and let them hold, carry or change it.” –mary914

“Does your loved one see well enough to enjoy a lit aquarium tank? I know they make small ones now that aren't too expensive. You can make it colorful and put one large fish or bunch of little ones in it. I sure do enjoy watching them. It's not much to maintain, but would amuse them and provide a distraction.” –Sunnygirl1

“Get a notebook and a pen, sit down with them and tell them you are going to write their biography. Let them tell it to you as you write it down. It will get them thinking, and they may remember some happy times. If it gets into unhappy times too often, tell them you already have that written down, and redirect them to happy times. Ask about their childhood, military life, if any, when their children were born, etc.” –vja1951

“Have you tried large piece (children's) puzzles? Start with ones that have about 12 pieces and, if they work, then move on from there. ‘Review’ magazines with your loved one page by page. It presents an opportunity to talk about the items on each page. Try for one of the large 'high class' magazines. My Mom would point to some of the most outrageous shoes and say she had a pair like them in her closet. It gets the person thinking when you ask things like, ‘what color is that purse, hair, shoes, lipstick, etc.’ You can talk about the images, scenes, fashions, etc. Trust me, it can take 3 hours to do one magazine! Also memory care centers often have a stack of infant's clothes for folding by the women who have mentally returned to their mothering days. (You can get a stack at a consignment or goodwill store.)” –geewiz

Ideas for Bookworms

“I'd build on their love of reading. Find a group that meets regularly, preferably one that reads a lot of their favorite genre. The one I belong to meets in a used book store. We select our reading list and it is mostly mysteries with a non-fiction title thrown in once in a while, and sometimes best-sellers. Most of our members are middle age or older, although we have had younger members. Hearing other people's opinions gives you a fresh way to look at books. Many libraries have book clubs, and senior centers often do, too. I believe that the Library of Congress has audio book devices that are very easy to operate and that they loan out. Not just books, but magazines and newspapers may be accessed, too. I haven't looked into that for many years, but I suggest it as a resource that might be worth exploring. Books on a screen, such as Kindle or Nook or an iPad, etc. do not require turning pages if a loved one has dexterity issues. They might just need someone to set them up and get them to a good starting point.” –jeannegibbs

Reminisce, Reminisce Extra, and Country are magazines that my father really enjoys reading, along with WWII books and magazines. The Reminisce magazines focus on WWII and the Depression. The Country magazines have beautiful photos, which are very calming and soothing and can create a mood perfect for closing one's eyes and drifting off either in daydreams or naps. There are also aviation magazines, some of them are very good. Reader’s Digest offers a large print edition; some of the stories really are quite interesting.” –GardenArtist

“My dad was a WWII and Korean War vet and loved the magazine Mental Floss that I got him. It's fun but science-y with lots of information. My dad was always curious and well-read. My 95-year-old mom still loves to read novels that I get from the library and she loves her Word Find books.” –blannie

Hobbies for Blind and Low Vision Seniors

“My mother is legally blind. The Library of Congress sends a special player with a memory stick and a catalog out regularly, although I've found that I seldom get the books I have ordered, but usually it's at least in the same category/genre. My mother likes teenage girl-type stories. Go to www.loc.gov/nls to see what's available. Gardening helps her a lot, too. Problems with this include the fact that we live in Georgia and it is HOT here and she can only go out early in the morning or late in the afternoon. She happily hoes on the weeds and chops down some of the vegetables in the process, but she does surprisingly well. She was raised on a farm and all the kids were required to work in the fields from the time they could walk, so it's second nature to her.” –sherry1anne

“I've at last found a use for the complete Mozart collection my son gave me many Christmases ago. The music plays softly in the background and mother claims to like it, although I don't know how much she actually hears. The mathematical rhythms and intervals are supposed to be soothing to the brain, and who am I to say any different?” –Churchmouse

“Check with your local libraries within comfortable driving distance. Not only do many of them have books for the blind (in our area at least), but in one section of the county some libraries have music programs. Some time ago I read of a program at a garden center for the vision impaired, but I don't remember where it was. The gardens were planted in raised beds so wheelchair patients could roll up, touch the herbs and enjoy the fragrance. Even if you don't have a program like this in your community or any gardening space, you could create a small terrarium garden with herbs that your loved one could rub and perhaps clip for cooking.” –GardenArtist

“Check your area senior resources for groups and events that are appropriate for your loved one. Our city also has a ride service, so people who can't drive have a way to get to these events. As for things to do at home, I had a blind aunt who knitted. I think she knitted before she went blind, but I wonder if a simple knit stitch could be learned. She couldn't see her dropped stitches, but was still able to donate her handiwork to make blankets for the local shelters, so it made her feel productive and didn't have to be perfect, either. I'd also suggest a drum class. I've been to my sighted mother's class and it's not like you have to watch the instructor. Everyone has a drum and does their own thing. They drum and sing along to favorite old songs. There are people in some communities that specialize in these types of drum classes and go to senior centers and homes.” –abc1234567890

“I have found both my blind father and a blind elderly client enjoy doing crossword puzzles together. I read the clues out loud and they think of the words and do a kind of scrabble together. For that game I bought some metal cookie sheets and big letter magnets (the kind you put on the fridge to help children spell) at the dollar store. They can feel the shapes of the letters and make words. It's fun for them and keeps their brains active.” –Julieannmade

“Find some things that are tactile for them. Check with the Association for the Blind. You could just make a game of smelling things that might bring back memories, such as peppermint, lilacs, vanilla, etc. Did your loved one enjoy baking? Let them knead some bread dough or mix ingredients together for recipes.” –Jaye

“My mother is 96, just about blind and almost completely deaf. Unfortunately she is also rather senile. Since she has moved in with my husband and myself we have found it difficult to keep her occupied. So far the big winners are our visiting grandchildren and a litter of kittens my adult daughter is bottle feeding. She does enjoy sitting outside when the weather is good, marveling at how good the sun and breeze feel on her skin. We continue to try to find things that involve smell, touch and taste. All of the suggestions involving those senses are right on.” –goodgirl

“It is a challenge to find activities when the hands, the eyes and the ears are not working at their best, but keep trying. Ask for their help with folding washcloths. They're small enough to handle easily and they might enjoy the tactile sensations. Plus it gives them a feeling of helping the household. I do that with my mom who is 106, with low vision and hearing loss. There are many internet radio stations that stream a genre of music they might enjoy. We keep ours on a Sinatra station or another from the UK featuring music from the 1940s. The best is if a willing family member or volunteer will simply sit and talk with them and maybe take some of their old pictures out and describe them to the senior. My mom remembers the pictures even though she can't see them, but enjoys anyone who will take time to sit, go through and describe them to her.” –Kaseymoe

Daytime Care Options

“Check to see if there is a federal Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) in your area. Your Area Agency on Aging would be able to tell you. This provides nursing home level services in the home setting and includes transportation (up to five days/week) to their center for day care services. PACE also has an a la carte fee schedule for day services. Another possibility is to see if there is a Village to Village Network in your area. These villages provide transportation and social events.” –plzdnr

“Get someone to come in and stay with your loved one or take them for an outing sometimes. If you can't afford this, look for resources to pay for it. If their significant other was in the military, there may be a veterans benefit that will pay for this.” –suethequilter

“Have you tried an adult day care program? Many caregivers find this to be a true respite which allows them time for themselves, while offering the care recipient an opportunity to connect with their peers, socialize, and enjoy a day away from their usual routine at home. If they resist, say you need to do this for yourself, and tell them to try a few 'guest days.’ I believe if you are persistent in telling them you need this for both of you, they may surprise you and enjoy themselves after a while.” –HilaryMurray

Technological Entertainment for Seniors

“If your loved one is active on the computer, they could find some chat groups where everyone has the same interest, such as gardening. Maybe a group that Skypes, thus actually seeing each other to talk to online?” –freqflyer

“Try an iPad! My mother used a desktop, but was leery of using tablet. We three sisters all signed into ours and sat together with her playing Words with Friends. She is a Scrabble lover, and we knew this would be her gateway app. By the end of the evening playing with each of us, she was comfortable with how to use it. We also loaded it with lots of old family photos. It became a huge help when she was hospitalized, as she could keep up with her email and Facebook. She is now 86 and has 20 Words with Friends games going on at a time with her nieces, nephews and grandchildren. She loves it and has convinced several friends at her assisted living facility to get one too.” –Lynnnnn

“Seniors here LOVE Wii bowling. Even those in wheelchairs can do it. Maybe there are Wii programs at your nearby senior center?” –micadoormat

“My Mother is 88, she can't see well and she's not really mobile or interested in much, but she loves to play mahjong on the computer. It's very easy and so many people seem to love it. You basically click on matching tiles.” –ckauffman2000

“We have had big success with the Presto by HP. It's a printing email box. Basically, you can send an email with a picture and it plugs into a regular phone line, no computer required. You send an email to their address (like TheirName@presto.com) and it prints out whatever you sent. It calls its office up to 5x/day to fetch the latest emails. Both my mom and mother-in-law love it. I program the thing in advance to send a note and a picture 4 times a week in the mornings. Our two Moms compare messages they got (I make sure they are different). I punch holes in the papers about once a month and store them in a notebook, which they then review frequently.” –sophe59

Senior Arts and Crafts

“For a veteran or someone who used to build models, I'd try some model plane kits. Especially if they have favorite types of aircraft. They can build their own air force! This kind of activity is engrossing; someone could sit for hours assembling the miniature parts.” –GardenArtist

“Decoupage is very, very simple. It requires minimal effort, but the effect is lovely. Mum hasn't cottoned on yet that we don't need to do this, but I buy the very cheapest tissues and she decoupages the boxes before I use them. It isn't at all that crafty, even if it sounds it. It’s just tissue and glue. Mum also cuts the pictures out from past greeting cards and I use them to make some homemade ones. Then she splats glue everywhere and dusts them with glitter. If you are going to do this, make sure you have plastic down. That bloody glitter gets everywhere!” –PhoenixDaughter

“My daughter-in-law’s grandfather was in a wheelchair after both his legs had been amputated due to bad circulation. DIL’s mother took care of him at their house and she enrolled him in some Hatchette Partworks series. She has ordered a steam train that he has built and he receives a book with some new parts every week. After that she enrolled him in the next new series, which was a whole railway with tracks, trains, buildings, etc. Some of the projects are not too difficult. They currently have some model boats, and they just started a new quilting series. I have already subscribed to their crocheting series. You only receive one book per week with enough material/wool to make one square or crochet one block per week. With this setup, they might not feel overwhelmed with a huge project all at once, not knowing where to start and how to finish.” –Justashes

“I got my mom (age 89) into scrapbooking. It's something that she used to do years ago, so it is familiar. We copied old photos and she put a book together for each grandchild explaining their heritage, who their grandparents and great-grandparents were, what they did, and how they lived. It was a good way to get a lot of family history on paper too. Mom's short-term memory is bad, but her memory of these people and long-past events is sharp. It made her feel good to do something that felt familiar and made her think of family.” –LynnPO

“My ma is 95, in moderate stage dementia and has severe arthritis. She is no longer able to control her hands enough to do crossword puzzles, which she loved for years. I wasn't sure what she would be able to do with coloring pens, but she really seems to like coloring. Ma not only enjoys coloring while she is doing it, but she is also proud of her creations afterwards. Coloring together is pleasant because we can hold a conversation at the same time, or just sit together companionably. During the most recent session I was coloring a cow and I used that to start a conversation about my mother's childhood on a farm. I think I'll print coloring pictures in a format that can be folded into cards. After she has done a batch, I'll bring in stamps, address stickers and envelopes and she can send cards to relatives.” –jeannegibbs

“Before my mom's vision got bad (macular degeneration) she enjoyed working with mesh. They sell plastic mesh with larger holes that can be worked on with plastic needles and thick yarn. You can make baskets using rectangles and squares. My mom made small Easter baskets and we filled them up with candy. You might also check some of the children's craft toy kits. They would be simple and easy for an elderly person who has a visual and/or dexterity problem to use.” –hair

“If your loved one likes to paint, go to a craft store and purchase sun catcher kits. They are easy to do and look nice when done.” –terryjack1

“Get a box of assorted screws washers, nuts and bolts and give him/her an egg carton to sort them into. Get some assorted dried beans (several kinds or the 15-bean mix pack) and Elmer’s glue and have him/her make a design with the beans. You can even give them a pattern to fill in with beans of their choosing. For a backing, I like to use wood shingles that I get at the hardware super store. They usually sell me open bundles. Sorting and cutting coupons could be useful. You could even make a shopping list and ask them to find coupons for it. Get one of those ‘paint with water’ books that has the paint already on the paper and all they have to do is dip the brush in water and paint away to see the design. Easy to do and very little clean up. Color paint chips from the hardware store can be cut into sections and arranged into designs or pictures like mosaics. Get some artificial flowers and vases to make arrangements.” –glasshalffull

“Art therapy has gained more prominence in helping people, but you can use art therapy in other ways—beautiful photography, for example. Some magazine have photos that are relaxing, and you can read the short stories or anecdotes that accompany them (if any) to your loved one if they’re interested. But for me, just seeing the photos is immediately soothing. There usually are photos of animals as well. Little puppies and kittens just seem to be the photographic equivalent of a Mozart masterpiece.” –GardenArtist

“You might want to try getting your loved one some Play-Doh. It would be great for improving their strength and maybe they could get their frustrations out too!” –RebeccaLynn

Games and Puzzles

“I can't tell you how many jigsaw puzzles me and mom have done together. It is great time together since both of us enjoy doing them. There are so many different levels. Mom used to do 1000 piece ones and now we do 300 piece ones together. We sometimes start one at 7pm and finish at around 11pm. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment before we BOTH go to bed.” –foxxmolder

“We put a lot of jigsaw puzzles together as a family. It may be easier for your loved one if you buy large-piece puzzles, perhaps from the children’s toy department. I buy them from the dollar stores. My 88-year-old Dad does the word puzzles where you find the words in a page of letters. He likes the ones that have a topic like cities, colors, landmarks or even fruits or vegetables. He gets the large print ones. They are easier to read and don't take as long to finish. I also buy them at a dollar store.” –bjnoclue

Senior Depression and Withdrawal

“A hobby, an interest to get enthusiastic about, something to look forward to during the day—all these are great and helpful, but they can't overcome clinical depression. A person with depression can't simply snap themselves out of it by doing interesting things. There are many, many antidepressants out there and it is often trial-and-error to find the right one. But it is out there! Suggested activities are good to try while a medication is working. They can help a lot, but they probably cannot do the trick alone.” –jeannegibbs

“Activities are great, but if a loved one is clinically depressed, how are they going to get the ability to become more involved and motivated? It may be expecting too much from them, although, I've read that some things may help. I would hope that their doctor could adjust their meds and that might lift their mood and allow them to receive more pleasure from their interests. While at the doctor, I might also ask about checking their vitamin B levels, thyroid and sugar. Do they have trouble sleeping? If that is the case, they might just be very tired during the day and less willing to participate. I'd check into that as well.” –Sunnygirl1

“Isolation could literally be due to any number of things:

  • Depression
  • A continence problem
  • Vision/Hearing
  • Comprehension is declining
  • Cognitive changes are happening
  • Mobility issues
  • Feeling a loss of purpose
  • Feeling helpless/hopeless

Have your loved one evaluated by a Geriatrician, not a family practice general practitioner. We take our babies to pediatricians because it's a specialty. Well, so is the care of the aged. Geriatricians are far better trained to pick up on cues and what is and is not normal aging.” –sandwich42plus

How to Encourage Activity and Know When to Stop

“In terms of senior centers, my mom is no longer willing to be in settings where everyone else seems faster and more independent than she is. But in terms of adult day care, she's not happy with people who are so much more visibly deteriorated than she is. Rock and a hard place. So, she stays home (living with my husband and me). It seems to me 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 good night, the fact that accidents are cleaned up without a fuss (usually), that instead of facing a closet that is overwhelming in its variety, we can choose clothes for the day together or she can decide to stay in her nightie and robe. And who's to know, maybe some of the withdrawal into herself is her ‘making her peace with God,’ which has been described as part of the dying process in many cultures worldwide. 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 (even with prompting), and just ‘feels a nap coming on.’ I am getting better at accepting her and her wishes at face value and just trying to keep her needs met at home. But 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 they 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 over a couple of months now. 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 at home. When we come in from gardening 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. I have seen her decline. She doesn't want to do anything but watch TV all day even though she has a home health care provider during the day. 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 due to her limited attention span. TV time is a anywhere from 1 hour to 90 minutes, so her provider can either do the cleaning/washing or meal prep while mom views her favorite shows. The first day we implemented the schedule, my mom put up a fight and told her provider she was fired! But thankfully, dementia patients quickly forget why they were angry and life goes on like it never happened. Whew! 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 provider, 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 because 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 (who is 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

“I know my Mom was 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. What do they like to do now? Work with that. 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 that. 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. Refuse to receive it.” –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 anyway. I had to learn that the hard way. I had to let that goal go. My goals for my mom turned into her safety and her physical wellbeing and that is it. She takes anti-psychotics now to control anger and paranoia. She takes anti-anxiety 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 for us.” –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 that she 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

Ashley Huntsberry-Lett

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Ashley is responsible for the planning and creation of AgingCare.com’s award-winning content. As a teenager, she assisted in caring for her step-father during his three-year battle with colon cancer. Now, through her work at AgingCare.com, she strives to inform and empower the caregivers who devote so much to helping and healing the ones they love.

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So many of these responses have been the best I have ever read here on this site! Thank you all!!