Three Activities to Improve Mental Health in Older Adults


Getting outdoors is just one of the fun activities that can help boost mental health in older adults.

Family caregivers dedicate their time and energy to help older loved ones live healthy and safe lives at home. Being healthy isn’t just about physical health or avoiding injury; it also extends to mental health. Depression and other mental health issues don’t have to be a regular part of growing older. There are things you can do to help brighten a senior loved one’s day—from enjoying activities together to finding hobbies they can enjoy independently. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s mood, try these three easy-to-implement activities to keep the mind strong and spirits high while boosting mental health in older adults.

Enjoy Nature

Getting outside and enjoying a change of scenery can go a long way towards improving overall mental health in older adults. According to the American Psychological Association, there are many benefits of being outdoors, including “improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”

There are many ways to enjoy the great outdoors for a day long outing or even for short periods of time. Getting outdoors also has the added benefit of light exercise, which can improve mental health. Try a few of these ideas with an older loved one:

  • Visit a park
  • Take a walk or hike
  • Pack a lunch and have a picnic at the lake
  • Work in the garden
  • Go fishing
  • Enjoy a cup of tea on the patio
  • Go birdwatching
  • Visit botanical gardens or outdoor sculpture parks
  • Dine outdoors
  • Visit a local nursery or farmers’ market
  • Exercise outside

If weather or mobility concerns make getting outside difficult for a senior loved one, sitting by a window and observing nature can be a viable alternative. Studies also show that there is a benefit to looking at images of nature or watching nature programs. There are many captivating nature documentaries available online, on TV, or on DVDs from local libraries.

Play Puzzles or Games

Remember how much fun you had playing games as a kid? Why should children get to have all the fun? Puzzles word and board games are entertaining activities that older adults can do independently or they can be a shared activity with the whole family. These activities are not only fun, but they also help boost mental health by challenging the brain. Many word or number games are available in book form as well as online or as apps for phones or tablets. Talk with the older adult to see if they have favorite games they haven’t played in a while, or find something new to play. Here are just a few possibilities to try:

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Number games like Sudoku
  • Word games like Scrabble, Boggle, Yahtzee, or Bananagrams
  • Bingo
  • Backgammon
  • Chess or checkers
  • Playing cards

When trying a game or puzzle, make sure that whatever you choose is a good fit for your older loved one’s skills and abilities. If the game is frustrating, it may not have the desired mental health benefit. Consider trying simpler jigsaw puzzles with fewer pieces or larger pieces that are easier to hold. Some games are designed with larger pieces to help older adults with visual impairments.

Find a New Hobby or Skill

Another way to improve mental health and wellness for older adults is by learning something new or returning to an activity they haven’t tried in a while. Hobbies are wonderful ways to develop or awaken skills and can be done individually or in groups for additional companionship. Some great ways to encourage an older loved one to try a hobby include:

  • Taking a class. Many community groups, such as public libraries and senior centers, offer classes for seniors who want to learn a new skill while enjoying the company of others.
  • Creating art. Art encourages creativity, develops hand-eye coordination, is visually stimulating, and can help boost the mood. Many art classes are available online or at craft stores or local community groups.
  • Enjoying music. Music is a wonderful way to improve mental health in older adults. Music can bring back fond memories. Some ideas to try include playing an instrument, singing, joining a local chorus, attending concerts, or watching musicals on stage or at home.

At Visiting Care Giving Services, a leading provider of St. Charles elder care and caregiving services in the surrounding areas, our caregivers can help older adults live enjoyable and fulfilling lives in the comfort of home. Whether a senior loved one could benefit from regular companionship to reduce loneliness, needs transportation to social outings, or anything in between, our team is committed to helping maintain the overall mental health and wellness for each of our clients. Our companion care services can also provide that extra assistance an older adult might need, including meal planning and preparation, personal care, and more. Contact us today at (636) 493-9058 to schedule a free in-home consultation or to learn more about our in-home caregiving services.