In order to look after their mental health, it’s important for your relative to try to keep as busy as they can, and do things they enjoy – whether that’s going on a walk, watching TV, cooking, reading, or knitting. “Ensuring you feel stimulated and have fun protects against loneliness and improves your general wellbeing,” says Olivia Field, loneliness lead at the British Red Cross.
For some older individuals, small tasks like visiting the supermarket or running locals errands can help to give them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Therefore, it can help to think about little ‘tasks’ you can set for your relative so their days feel meaningful.
This doesn’t just reduce negative feelings like loneliness or depression, but also helps limit stress levels. On top of that, studies show that older adults who feel purposeful are less likely to develop diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
There are lots of small projects that your relative might enjoy working on, depending on their level of physical and mental capacity. You could talk with your loved one about planning family gatherings, ask them to organise old photos, or set aside special memorabilia to share when everyone is reunited.
They even could note down happy stories and memories you can all reminisce about, make a list of their favourite films they’d like to watch with family, or write down some family recipes to pass down.
If your relative enjoys writing – or simply reminiscing – you could encourage them to put pen to paper and try writing a memoir. Try to convey the importance of this action and let your loved one know how much your family will treasure their memories.
Other activities like gardening are also known to have powerful psychological benefits and can significantly reduce depression. So if your relative enjoys being outside, and is capable of doing so, you could encourage them to work in their garden if they have one.
If your relative has the means, they may also want to consider volunteering online. There are dozens of virtual volunteering opportunities that you can do from the comfort of your home: if your loved one is familiar with Skype, then they could become a ‘Granny Cloud’ volunteer. This involves Skyping into remote locations to chat with, listen to, and encourage underprivileged children.
Alternatively, if your relative is interested in nature and wildlife, you could ask them to record any birds they see, then help them log the entries onto the eBird website to inform global bird research and assist with conservation decisions. This would be an easy way for them to feel like they’re making a significant difference from their back garden…or even from just looking out the window.