6 ways to empower seniors with disabilities
Motivating your elderly loved one with disabilities to stay active is no easy task. It’s not just mobility issues that may hold them back, but a fear of injuring themselves, lack of self-confidence, or even cognitive decline associated with aging. From imagining new and fun activities with them to doing a little research and helping them connect with others, it’s more than possible to make a huge difference in their quality of life.
Brainstorm FUN Activities
Your aging loved one may not know what they want to do to stay active because they don’t know what’s possible. Talk to your loved one about their likes, dislikes, comfort levels and especially, what they used to enjoy doing. Not only will nostalgia inspire them, but so will sharing with them how much exercise and staying active will benefit them both mentally and physically. Fun activities for seniors with disabilities can include:
- Gentle yoga or chair yoga
- Assisting with cooking a meal
- Going for a walk (or roll)
- Visiting an arboretum or botanical gardens
- Low-impact weight lifting
- Assisted dancing
- Seeing a show or performance
Even when a physical impairment or mental decline affects an elderly person, routine exercise can continue to combat heart disease, promote a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, improve balance and coordination, reverse bone loss and more.
Help Them Connect with Others
The social isolation that can naturally accompany getting older is exacerbated by disabilities that make it even harder to get out and interact with others. Empowering your beloved senior with a disability is made simpler with the help of technology.
When possible, help your loved one connect online with family and friends – perhaps it is setting up a weekly Skype date for them to video chat with their grandkids. Or helping them get on facebook to connect with family members and old friends, and showing them how to share, message, comment and look at photos.
The internet is a great way for seniors with disabilities to find and engage with others like themselves too – use sites like Meetup.com to find local groups of seniors that share the same interests and meet up in person on occasion.
Find Easier Ways to Do Things
Simpler, practical solutions to empowering your favorite senior with disabilities are key to helping them stay active. Reflective tape, grab bars and other assistive tools and devices in the home can be helpful for seniors with mobility issues while virtual assistants like Google Home or Amazon Echo could be handy tools for seniors with visual impairment.
Simplifying the everyday tasks that can be time-consuming or tiresome for someone with a disability not only frees up time for them to focus on more fulfilling activities but bolsters their confidence level and seeds feelings of independence that might have slipped away with age.
Nail Down a Daily Schedule
A planned out framework for the day helps seniors, especially those with disabilities, manage and succeed in their day. With a set time for waking, dressing, toileting, brushing teeth, taking medicine, eating meals, exercising and going to bed, a fixed daily schedule provides structure and stability to your loved one’s day.
It also empowers them to feel more confident and independent and allows them to be part of the planning and decision-making process. When they know that between 2 and 3:30 pm they have time to exercise or do something just for fun, they will feel encouraged to pick an outing or activity themselves.
Do Your Research
Planning a trip to an old movie theatre that is showing your loved one’s favorite classic? Check first that they have a wheelchair ramp or easy way for someone with a disability to access the building. Unfortunately, only buildings built after 1992 (when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by President George W. H. Bush) are required to have wheelchair accessible ramps.
Heading for a rare outing with your loved one can end in frustration and disappointment if it is incredibly hard to get around. Call ahead to your destination and ask about accessibility before going out, and remember that not all sidewalks are made equal – if your loved one uses a cane, walker or wheelchair to get around, cobblestone or uneven and cracked pavement can be incredibly hard to traverse.
Help Them Help Others
Giving back has shown to help alleviate feelings of stress and boost overall mood for people young and old. Knowing that their presence has purpose, and their lives can positively affect someone else’s can be just the empowerment your loved one needs!
If their disability prevents them from being able to volunteer somewhere in person, like at a food bank or fundraiser, help your loved one find ways to give back from the comfort of their own home. Baking a sweet treat for neighbor or friend, knitting blankets for children in the hospital, filling “Blessings Bags” for the homeless with toiletries, snacks and water, or even donating a small amount of money to a charity they care about are great places to start.
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