How To Engage Your Elderly Loved Ones Physically and Mentally?
Word games, Nintendo Switch and Mahjong. These are just different types of games to us, but for seniors, they are also tools for stimulating the mind. Keeping mentally engaged while staying physically active are two important parts to living well as we age.
Our Facebook page often gets questions about mental and physical wellbeing for seniors. NTUC Health’s Active Ageing Hub’s Centre Manager Chai Chee Mei and Senior Day Care’s Centre-in-charge Yenn Lim answer them here in “You Ask, We Answer”.
Chai Chee Mei (left) and Yenn Lim (right)
Centre Manager of Active Ageing Hub and Centre-in-Charge of Senior Day Care - NTUC Health
I'm not sure if my mom is mentally engaged enough every day. Where can I ask my FDW (Foreign Domestic Worker) to take my mom for activities? She walks with help, but sometimes she uses a wheelchair.
One of the best ways for seniors to stay mentally engaged is to learn new skills or pick up new hobbies. Your mum can consider joining interest groups at Active Ageing Hubs, like the ones in Kampung Admiralty and Jurong Central Plaza. These interest groups are formed and led by volunteers who are seniors like her.
She can take part in activities such as art and craft classes, music classes, gardening, sewing, and cooking. There are also exercise sessions suitable, even for seniors in wheelchairs. Membership is free as long as she volunteers to do simple activities at the Hub, for other seniors.
Alternatively, you can enrol her in a Senior Day Care Centre for one or two days a week. The Centre’s trained professionals will watch over her and provide care if she needs it. It has a line-up of programmes including exercises and games throughout the day. Some centres also invite children from neighbouring schools to join in the activities.
These programmes aim to engage seniors mentally in a fun way. Games conducted in the centre include brain-teasers, word games, Nintendo Switch games and Mahjong, which many seniors enjoy. Trained staff are on hand to support seniors with dementia or those who need help moving around. There are many Senior Day Care Centres across Singapore, so you are likely to find one in or near your neighbourhood.
Beyond that, encouraging your mum to stay physically active will help her be mentally alert as well. To improve her mobility, she can join rehabilitation sessions at the Senior Day Care Centres too. These centres’ rehab therapists will assess her physical condition to customise exercises that improve her leg muscle strength so she can be steady on her feet. Centres with Gym Tonic classes are a good choice, as staff can tailor strength-training programmes for seniors based on their ability. NTUC Health offers such a programme under the Tango Active Ageing Programme, which can benefit even seniors in wheelchairs.
How do you empower seniors to handle day-to-day activities, yet maintain their physical safety?
As much as possible, encourage seniors to do things for themselves. By regularly handling tasks on their own, they can retain their physical and mental abilities.
At our Day Centre for Seniors, for example, the staff would observe and provide support to seniors enrolled in the Centre’s programmes.
Seniors who can move about on their own are encouraged to be independent, such as return their cutlery after meals, as they normally would at home. More able-bodied seniors may even be asked to help other seniors who need support with walking, and in activities like strolling around the neighbourhood. Our staff would also encourage seniors to go about their activities while standing, instead of being seated all the time.
When seniors are independent and can provide support to others, they may feel valued. This can add purpose to their lives. We encouraged a senior with dementia to help out at our centre, and she shared that she stopped feeling “useless” because of that.