The need for care, whether temporary or permanent, can arise at any time. And while there are many benefits to care, having someone take care of your personal needs can sometimes take some getting used to.
In most care situations, it’s also natural for practical responsibilities to become the primary focus. But establishing a strong bond with the person you’re caring for can make all the difference to the quality of care.
Taking part in fun activities together, such as bird watching, cooking, and listening to music can allow you to connect and get to know each other better. It can also boost physical and mental health for both of you.
With this in mind, here are nine fun activities that you could do with the person you care for.
1. Host your own afternoon tea
Enjoying an afternoon tea is a much-loved British tradition and a great way to spend an hour or two in each other’s company. And just because the event may be small, doesn’t mean it needs to be any less special.
Whether you decide to stock up from your local supermarket or make your own treats, some afternoon tea must-haves include scones with clotted cream and jam, as well as some cakes, sandwiches, and of course – plenty of tea.
For more afternoon tea inspiration, 31 Daily’s article, How to serve an easy afternoon tea, is full of fun ideas including tableware checklists, different teas to serve, and how to stylishly arrange the tea party food.
2. Encourage them to share and record their life story
Everyone has a collection of special memories, but older generations in particular often have amazing life stories to share.
Encouraging them to reflect on their life and record their memories can be special and valuable – both for themselves, you, and their loved ones. Relatives may learn more about their family history, be provided with a source of comfort when their relative is gone; and, most of all, research has shown that it can be highly beneficial for mature adults.
For example, this study found that reminiscing improves self-esteem, cognitive ability, increases feelings of self-control, reduces the risk of depression, and can quite often result in a more appreciative view of life.
There are a few ways that you can help to encourage people to share their memories – and these days there’s a whole range of special and exciting ways to store this information for years to come too.
You can find various ideas on how to collect and record special memories – including via audio recording – in these articles, 5 ways to help seniors share special memories from Daily Caring, and 4 methods for collecting and preserving life stories from Guideposts.
An alternative to recording memories is to explore your family history together. Uncovering your family tree has many benefits and can lead to a greater sense of connection and purpose. You can learn more about this and how to get started in our article; 10 ways to trace your family tree.
3. Enjoy bird watching together
Bird watching is one of the most relaxing, rewarding, and accessible pastimes. It brings many benefits including getting outdoors, connecting with nature, and practising mindfulness.
Bird watching has also been shown to be effective at combating negative emotions and boosting mood. For example, these studies revealed that people who are more connected to nature tend to be happier in life and are more likely to report feeling as though their lives are worthwhile.
This is largely because focusing on nature encourages people to zone out from sources of stress or anxiety. Studies also show that connecting with nature can boost cognitive function in older adults and improve quality of life.
And while birdwatching can easily be done alone, it’s a great activity to do together too. If you wanted to, you could even add a little friendly competition into the mix to see who can spot and identify the most unique bird species.
For more information on the benefits of bird watching and how to get started, check out our beginner’s guide to bird watching.
4. Start an arts and crafts project together
Creating something by hand is fun and rewarding – and getting stuck into an arts and craft project is a great way to fill your time, relax, and connect with another person. You never know, you might also uncover a new hobby or passion.
It’s easy to wave away time watching television or doing other passive activities, but these lack stimulation and aren’t always great for your physical or mental health. In fact, this study found that older adults who spent at least 3.5 hours a day watching television were more likely to experience a decline in verbal memory.
Engaging in an arts and crafts project, on the other hand, has many benefits that are supported by science. This includes good mental stimulation, relieved stress, increased confidence levels, and boosted self-esteem. Even better, arts and crafts projects often result in special memorabilia or thoughtful gifts for loved ones.
For ideas on how to get started, check out our articles; 13 creative and practical craft projects to brighten your day, and 10 interesting crafts to try at home for ideas. Here you’ll find guidance on everything from calligraphy and drawing to embroidery and flower pressing.
5. Take a trip to a pet cafe
Anyone who has spent time with a loyal, loving dog, or heard the gentle rumble of a cat’s purr will know the powerful effect that animals can have on people.
And time and again, research has highlighted the various benefits that interaction with animals can have on our physical and mental health – including boosted mood and self-esteem, increased social activity, reduced risk of depression and loneliness, and healthy blood pressure.
So, unsurprisingly, pet therapy has become a popular offering in a range of different settings, including retirement communities, hospices, and rehabilitation centres. But just because the person you’re caring for isn’t in a care home, doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some interaction with animals too.
These days, there are various ‘pet cafes’ that have popped up across the UK, where you can go for a drink or bite to eat and enjoy the company of some furry friends. For example, you could visit the Dog and Scone Cafe in Newcastle or take a trip to You & Meow cafe in Bristol to enjoy the company of some cats.
6. Prepare meals inspired by different cultures
It can be easy to fall into a comfort zone with our food and end up cooking a few of the same meals on repeat.
Research shows that this is particularly true for older generations – especially those who live alone. For example, this study found that almost one million older people in the UK rely on ready meals and convenience foods to keep them fed, with around 38% saying they miss having company at meal times.
So, you could help bring the joy back to meal times by enjoying some new recipes together. If possible, you could also consider preparing a meal together; cooking works as a great bonding experience because it relies heavily on teamwork.
Either way, research has shown that cooking and eating together creates the perfect informal environment to generate conversation and get to know eachother better.
And even if you can’t cook together, studies have also confirmed that humans see the offering and sharing of food as an indication of a warm welcome. So, it’s a great way to strengthen your relationship with the person you’re caring for.
For inspiration on where to start, head over to the food and drink section of our website. Here you’ll find meal ideas from all around the world, including Japanese, Thai, Mexican, and Caribbean.
7. Listen to or create some music together
The benefits of music – whether you’re the listener or producer – are well documented. Not only is engaging with music enjoyable, but research shows that it can help to keep the mind sharp, make you feel happier, strengthen memory, and reduce the risk of depression.
Therefore, as a carer, music can be a great way to bring joy into the life of the person you’re caring for, spark interesting discussions between the both of you, and form a deeper connection. The majority of us associate certain music with memories from our lifetime, so you could get to know each other better by learning about each other’s music taste too.
For those living with dementia, music can be particularly beneficial and has even been shown to ‘reawaken’ areas of the brain. You can read more about this in our article; The benefits of introducing more music into your life.
Plus, for anyone struggling to adapt to care, the stress-reducing and sleep-promoting qualities of music may also help to instil a sense of calm and make the transition a little easier.
If either of you are particularly musical, you could also consider getting involved with music from home – for example, by attending online music events, or learning to play an instrument. You can find out more about this in our article; How to get involved with music from home.
8. Watch a film together and review it
While it’s good to try new activities and get outdoors, sometimes there’s nothing better than getting cosy and relaxing in front of a good film.
Whether you decide to have a film night at home or take a trip to your local cinema, getting lost in a film is a great way to spend time together in a less ‘hands-on’ way.
If either of you are particularly passionate about film – or if you just want to add another aspect of fun to your movie night – you could consider making a list of films that you want to watch together, tick them off, and review them. Over time, you could end up compiling quite a list of film reviews which will be fun to look back on.
If you’re unsure what to watch, have a browse of the film, TV, and theatre section of our website. Here you’ll find a selection of film ideas – from must-see comedies to unmissable history films.
9. Solve some puzzles
Solving puzzles is the perfect rainy-day activity – one which research shows is highly popular among older generations.
Puzzles offer a fun challenge and opportunity for bonding as many – such as jigsaw puzzles – require you to work together. There are also many mental benefits to problem solving activities too – including improved memory function, increased IQ, and spatial reasoning skills. Plus, puzzles have been listed as a way to keep the mind sharp as we age.
Whether you like crosswords, jigsaws, memory games, or word searches, there’s a whole range of fun puzzles you can do together. You’ll find some more ideas in our article; 11 free online puzzles and games to tease your brain.
Aside from taking care of someone’s physical health, good quality care focuses on nurturing emotional and mental health too.
And while being cared for can take some getting used to, doing fun activities together and investing time into really getting to know the person you’re caring for can make all the difference to their quality of life.
For further information and guidance, head over to the care section of our website.
What do you think are some good activities for carers? We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.