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Self Care Activities for Seniors

Seniors doing jigsaw puzzle together

Now that coronavirus has turned us into germaphobes, we’re washing our hands, wiping down surfaces, wearing masks and practicing social distancing. It’s our best defense against getting and spreading the virus.

But if you don’t have a network of family and friends to lean on, social distancing can become social isolation. Studies estimate that chronic loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Stress associated with isolation puts older adults at higher risk for heart disease, dementia, mental health issues, and stroke.

That’s why senior self-care is more important than ever. If you’re feeling anxious, alone, or just snacking and drinking too much, here are eight self-care activities for seniors to give mind and body a healthy boost.

1. Maintain connections with family and friends. Schedule regular phone or video calls with the people you love. Even a 10-minute check-in can make a difference and give you something to look forward to. And instead of cancelling your usual social events like book clubs or happy hours, try holding them online instead.

2. Spend time in nature. It’s good to unplug from the steady stream of virus news. If there’s a park, hiking trail or other natural space nearby, getting outside can calm your mind and relax your body. It’s like taking a mini vacation off the grid. You don’t even have to travel far — if you’re a gardener, you can get back to nature in your own backyard.

3. Get off the couch. Now is not the time to let yourself go just because the gym’s closed. Try to make exercise a regular part of your day. Walking is a good way to start. YouTube channels like the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability offer video workouts. You could also try chair yoga if mobility is an issue.

4. Pass the time with a puzzle. Did you know one of the wealthiest people on the planet uses jigsaw puzzles to relax? Bill Gates is a big fan of jigsaw puzzles. So are Hugh Jackman, Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones, and Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Pickard in Star Trek. On your own or with others, jigsaw puzzles can help you unwind and enjoy some off-line distraction.

5. Take an online class. Now is a great time to expand your mind. There are over 900 free courses to explore at OpenLearn, the website for The Open University. In addition, the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer thousands of classes on topics from digital photography to paleontology. They’re free to anyone with a love of learning. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers also offers online courses.

6. Listen to podcasts. You can find a podcast on almost any topic that interests you. Just search the podcast app on your phone or ask your Facebook friends for recommendations. Popular shows include The Daily, This American Life and Ted Talks. With more than 850,000 active podcasts, there’s something for everyone.

7. Put your thoughts on paper. Writing in a journal can help you make sense out of chaos. It doesn’t have to be structured, just write what you’re feeling. It can be a huge relief to get all the whiny, angry, petty stuff out of your head. You might even sleep better having put those thoughts to bed.

8. Try meditation. You don’t have to join a monastery to learn how to meditate. There are apps like Headspace and free guided meditations online to get you started. Studies show that meditating for as little as 10 minutes can help you relax and feel more grounded. Other potential senior mental health benefits include better focus, improved memory and enhanced creativity.

At Laurel Circle, self-care activities for seniors run the gamut from meditation and Tai Chi to opportunities for lifelong learning and social connection. In addition, we offer a full range of services and amenities to make life easier and more enjoyable for residents. To see what we’re up to today, check out our activities page, and learn how we put senior self-care into practice every day.