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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 40% of seniors experienced loneliness on a regular basis. This feeling of loneliness, while subjective in nature, has severe and tangible consequences. Those who report feeling lonely are almost 40% more likely to experience severe symptoms from a cold, and according to AARP, “subjective loneliness and objective social isolation are risk factors for mortality and poor health outcomes.” In 2021, finding ways to connect with our older loved ones is especially crucial. If you’re caring for an older loved one in 2021, here are some ideas of activities to fight loneliness and engage them in activities you’ll both enjoy.

4 Activities to Engage Your Older Loved One

  • Plant a Garden. If your loved one is up for it, planting a garden is a great way to get them outdoors, enjoying some fresh air, and soaking up some vitamin D. It’s an activity that uses multiple senses (sight, touch, smell, sound) that you can do together. The actual plants you choose to plant aren’t as important as the activity itself.

    You can choose plants based on their level of drought-tolerance (like succulents) if you want a low level of commitment, or you can choose something to enjoy the “fruits” of your labor (like literal fruits and vegetables or flowers).

    If they’re able to do some of the more challenging gardening work (digging and raking, for example) they’ll get a good dose of exercise as well.
  • Crafting. Crafting is a great way to let your loved one’s creativity shine.

    You can get a watercolor or acrylic paint set, build something with wood, paint or throw pottery, create hand-crafted letters and envelopes to send to friends or family, follow a knit kit, etc.

    This is something you can play around with and see what your loved one enjoys over time, or try something different every week – the possibilities are endless.
  • Learning and/or Tutoring. Learning and reading are mentally engaging activities you can do separately or together. You can create a family book club to discuss the books you’re reading (even if it’s just the two of you), or read a book together.

    Tutoring and mentoring is another engaging activity that your loved one may enjoy. Their lifetime of experience and friendship could be invaluable to a younger person in the community.

    If they had a career they valued, can they tutor or mentor someone in the skills that may come naturally to them now? Or maybe there’s someone new to the area that could use a friend who knows the community.

    These interactions can safely happen over the phone or through online video chat and will help your loved one to feel mentally engaged and reminded of their value.
  • Music and Nostalgia. One of the best available tools to engage an older loved one is music. Through the familiar songs of decades past, they may be mentally transported to another time. These songs may also trigger memories and stories your loved one can then share with you, creating a special moment of bonding.

    The foundation, I Did Something Good Today, hosts an internet radio station that will help you do just that. It is called Nostalgic Radio that features music from the 1940s-1970s as well as old-time radio shows. There is also a segment called, “Golden Memories” dedicated to interviews with older people and their backstories.

    Listening to these stories, programs, and songs is an incredible activity to engage your older loved one in 2021.

    Note: The foundation also runs a “GoldenTALK” where seniors can call in from 11am to 11pm PST to talk to a friendly voice by dialing (888) 604-6533.

Closing Thoughts

Loneliness in 2021 is an epidemic of its own right for large portions of our older communities. We hope you found some ideas to engage your older loved one to help keep the feeling of loneliness at bay.

If you provide regular care to your loved one, we at CRC are here for you. As a caregiver, you’re faced with new challenges every day. The California Caregiver Resource Centers were created with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, who can talk more about local programs for caregivers, answer your questions, and explain how they can best support you.

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