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Diversional Therapy Activities for Seniors

Gabrielle Applebury
Senior woman painting

Diversional therapy helps you enhance your physical and emotional well-being while enjoying stimulating activities. Diversional therapy activities for seniors are not only psychologically stimulating, but can also enhance their quality of life.

Tell Your Story Through Writing

One of the most important activities you can do as you reach the senior citizen stage of your life is to document and tell your story. For many people, this can feel healing as it provides a way to feel heard and truly seen. Looking back on favorite memories, or key life moments can be an uplifting and at times challenging self-reflection process. For this activity you will need a plain notebook and various art supplies.

  1. Decorate your notebook however you'd like.
  2. Beginning at your birth, begin to jot down key memories and feelings surrounding each major life event.
  3. Tap into your senses and note any sounds, smells, tastes, sights, and tactile memories that stand out.
  4. If you have difficulty writing, you can dictate your story to someone who can write down your words verbatim into your notebook.
  5. This can be something you keep private, or can share with friends and family members if you'd like.

This exercise stimulates the mind-body connection as it focuses on recalling memories, using fine motor skills, and reflecting on life's most poignant moments. This exercise works well for senior citizens who are contemplating the end-of-life stage and are looking for an outlet to process their experiences.

Creative Emotional Expression Using Ceramics

Emotional expression can feel challenging for some to connect to. For some, discussing their emotions may feel to intimate or scary. Understanding your emotional process can improve your communication skills and help you better understand what your personal needs are. For this exercise you will need a blank ceramic piece, paints, paintbrushes, water, and cloths.

  1. Pick a memory that has an emotional charge- can be a positive or negative experience.
  2. Without overthinking, simply paint how you feel when you bring up this memory.
  3. Once you are finished, allow your piece to dry.
  4. Once dried, observe your new creation and reflect on how you felt before painting and how you feel in this moment when you bring up this memory again.
  5. Notice if your emotions have shifted.

This is a great exercise that focuses on fine motor skills, self-reflection, and emotional connection. This would work well for senior citizens who want to cultivate a deeper connection to themselves.

Heal Old Wounds Through Letters to Yourself

Feeling a sense of resolution can help people move forward and gain closure. Whether the issue is current, or you've been holding onto to something for a while that brings up negative feelings, doing an exercise to heal old wounds may lead to an overdue emotional. For this exercise you will need, paper and a writing utensil.

  1. Think about a memory that still holds an emotional charge.
  2. Write a letter to your past self that helps you get through this difficult or confusing moment.
  3. Write as many letters as you'd like, keeping in mind that uncomfortable or painful emotions may resurface.
  4. Keep these letters displayed or in a special area as a testament to your strength throughout the years.

This exercise is best done with a trained counselor or therapist if you experience intense emotions easily and have a difficult time returning to a calm state on your own. This exercise can be done by anyone who is looking for a bit of closure. If writing is not possible, the letters can be dictated to a trusted individual.

Woman writing in journal

Highlight Your Spirit Through Art

Self-reflecting can be incredibly challenging no matter what age an individual is. Creating a self-portrait can be an empowering exercise for senior citizens to engage in. For this activity you will need a blank canvas, paints, paint brushes, water and cloths for cleaning the brushes, and an easel or stand for the canvas.

  1. Bring up an image of yourself.
  2. If this is challenging, think of a memory that highlights your essence as a person and captures who you are.
  3. Create any sort of image that feels like it captures this sense of your true self.
  4. This can be anything you want it to be, whether it's abstract or realistic.
  5. Keep this work of art as a reminder of your core spirit.

This self-reflecting exercise is a great way for senior citizens to connect to their core being. If fine motor skills are an issue, this exercise can be adapted to fit a variety of needs. For those with fine motor skill issues, larger creative utensils can be used to accommodate your abilities.

Ground Yourself Through Gardening

Gardening can be an incredibly relaxing and grounding experience for senior citizens to engage in. Gardening helps connect you to the earth, allows you to work at your own pace, and engages your fine and gross motor skills. Gardening also allows for creativity and engages the senses. To set up a gardening exercise, you will need assorted plants, pots, soil, shovels and water.

  1. Pick a plant that speaks to you. Find something that holds some value to you and reminds you of a special memory, person, or time in your life.
  2. Select a pot to house your plant.
  3. Fill the pot with soil halfway and gently place your plant in the pot.
  4. Add some water according to your specific plant's needs.
  5. Tend to your plant throughout the week to make sure it is thriving.
  6. Plant as many as you would like and enjoy spending some time tending to the garden you've created.

Gardening, even when you aren't consciously trying to ground yourself, can be really beneficial for those who tend to feel stressed out or anxious. It can be a great activity for senior citizens who are looking for an activity that provides purpose, relaxation, and stress-relief.

Equine Therapy Offers Self-Reflection Opportunities

Equine therapy can be a healing and challenging experience to engage in. This activity needs to be done with a professional equine therapist or trained counselor who is certified in equine assisted psychotherapy. Equine therapy may help you connect to yourself, heal past traumas, and better understand yourself as a person. Horses, because they are prey animals, are incredibly sensitive and act as a biofeedback system to whoever they are engaging with. This can not only help individuals work through challenging emotions, but also help individuals find an empowering way to self-reflect.

Senior man in equine therapy

Practice Mindfulness Through Eating

Practicing mindfulness is a way to engage your senses, relax your body, and connect to yourself. Mindful eating is an important aspect of enjoying life and encourages you to take the time to really savor your food. To practice mindful eating, first pick your favorite food, treat, or beverage. Find a quiet spot to sit and:

  1. Begin by examining your food without touching it. Often times we are in such a hurry to eat that we forget to really enjoy our meal.
  2. Inhale the aromas of whatever you are about to enjoy and note any memories or experiences that come to mind.
  3. Examine the texture of the food and note anything you notice. Think about size, shapes, and colors that you see.
  4. Place a small amount of food or drink in your mouth and let it sit there.
  5. Close your eyes and notice all the flavors and textures you are experiencing.

Taking time to appreciate what you are enjoying can help you better connect to yourself, recall memories that are connected to certain dishes, and really savor what you are experiencing.

Foster Self-Care

Diversional activities can be a great way for senior citizens to connect with themselves and challenge their minds and bodies. These activities can be done in a variety of venues and are simple to put together on a budget.

Diversional Therapy Activities for Seniors