Imagine what would happen if you lost your ability to see. Would you still be able to enjoy the hobbies and activities that are important to you?
This is the dilemma faced by a growing number of seniors and their caregivers. The National Federation of the Blind estimates that more than 3 million people over the age of 65 are functionally blind, meaning that they cannot see well enough to perform activities requiring normal vision. According to this report from the American Foundation for the Blind, the numbers are expected to increase as the Baby Boom generation ages.
Life with Low Vision: Finding Activities for Older Adults with Impaired Sight
Enjoyable activities are important for seniors to help ward off depression and make life more meaningful. However, it can be challenging to find activities for seniors who struggle with limited vision or total blindness. The challenge is even greater for those with dementia, whose shorter attention spans make it difficult for them to stay entertained for any length of time.
A good starting point is to think about the things the senior once enjoyed: did they cook, bake, make art, play music, dance or spend time outdoors? Think about how those activities can be done in new ways. For instance, if the person liked to cook or bake, they can stir ingredients, roll out dough, make meatballs, and be a taste tester. The key is to find aspects of their former hobbies that they can still participate in and enjoy.
Here are some suggested activities to try:
- Art: Working with tactile materials such as modeling clay or sculpting sand. Those with some vision may enjoy papier-mache or making collages.
- Music and Dance: Playing (or simply experimenting with) a musical instrument such as a guitar or harmonica, whether or not they are familiar with it. Dancing with a partner to their favorite music.
- Pets: Holding, petting or brushing a well-behaved dog or cat.
- Reading: Hearing the newspaper, books, magazines or even old family letters read by a caregiver. Listening to recorded books or magazines, which are available free from local libraries and the National Library Service. Keep stories short for those with dementia.
- Outdoors: Going for rides in the car with someone who describes the scenery. Taking a picnic lunch to the park, followed by a guided walk or wheelchair ride. Fishing with a helper who will bait the hook and remove the fish that are caught.
- Sports: Listening to sports games on the radio, which offers detailed description of the action.
- Miscellaneous: Listening to radio talk shows, church broadcasts, polka shows and other special-interest programs. Many have archived programs available online.
Experiment with these ideas to find a handful of go-to activities that your loved one will enjoy. Let their reactions and abilities be your guide. Remember that something that seems uninteresting to them one day may be just the thing on another. Try to remain flexible and adapt with your loved one to his or her changing needs.
Have you found an activity that keeps your vision-impaired senior engaged? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
Author bio: Cynthia Helzel is a freelance writer specializing in copywriting and content creation for senior care businesses and organizations.