6 Activities for Visually Impaired Seniors

May 5, 2017

6 Activities for Visually Impaired Seniors

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Finding activities and opportunities for seniors can prove to be challenging as it stands — and yet for the visually impaired, there are a range of other considerations caretakers and family members have to make.

Humans are incredibly complex beings, needing a lot more than just sunlight, water, and fresh air to thrive. For seniors, in particular, finding the right activities to supplement one’s lifestyle, hobbies, and physical or mental needs is key to wellbeing and happiness overall. Sound simple enough? It actually might be, but you’ll definitely want to put some thought into devising some recreational activities for your senior loved one — especially if they have trouble seeing.

Overcoming Barriers for Visually Impaired Seniors

Visually impaired seniors face a range of barriers in their everyday lives, many of which other people overcome without much thought or appreciation. Being partially or entirely blind presents many more obstacles than most people even realize. This could be a lack of confidence in someone’s independence, diminished mobility, social exclusion, and loneliness — all things that are already issues for our senior community. For these reasons, helping visually impaired seniors find activities tailored to their needs is incredibly important!

But, before we even get to the fun, some important tips for communicating with visually impaired seniors include:

  • Speak at a normal volume — people sometimes have the tendency to speak loudly if someone can’t see to compensate.
  • Be very specific with your directions. Don’t say “over there.” Instead, opt for “to your right on top of the dresser.”
  • When greeting someone, always make sure to identify yourself by name and your role if necessary.
  • It is still acceptable to describe things like colors, patterns, and shapes — these are still useful pieces of information to people who are visually impaired.
  • Don’t patronize them, but know when to help (sometimes easier said than done.)
  • Avoid channeling conversations through someone else. Engaging visually impaired people verbally is definitely the way to go!
  • Describe the terrain in order for someone to anticipate their surroundings.
  • Recognize someone for more than their disability (very important!)

Activities for Visually Impaired Seniors

As we’ve mentioned, finding the right activities can be a challenge and visual impairments require more care and attention. With that in mind, there are still many things that visually impaired seniors can enjoy, and even excel at! Depending on someone’s level of mobility their interests may vary, however facilitating your loved one’s activities is key to staying safe and effective.

1. Going to the Park

It might seem obvious, but helping someone get out into a public space is good for many reasons. Parks are places specifically designed to be accessible and usually calming. Natural elements like trees, birds, and grassy landscapes are things that make for a good starting point to get in some light exercise. One popular activity among park-goers is metal-detecting, believe it or not! This is one interesting hobby that is really the same whether you’re visually impaired or not, akin to some form of technological echolocation. It is also a great way to get some walking in and may even yield some buried treasure!

2. Swimming

Sticking with the goal to exercise, swimming is a great activity for visually impaired seniors since it’s low impact and the risk of losing balance is not a factor. Depending on someone’s ability to swim, providing supervision is best considering a pool’s different depths and the presence of other patrons. Helping someone safely enter and exit the facility is also key in avoiding injuries and making the experience as effective as possible!

3. Listening to Music

Things have really changed in terms of how people can access music, and there’s always something new to hear! If your senior loved one has never explored music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, or iTunes among many others, they may be in for a world of new experiences. On the same note, audiobooks make for a great alternative to reading, especially for people who grew up listening to the radio. You can find just about anything being read aloud and by multiple voice actors, so the listening experience can be quite rich! Additionally, it’s important to use proper headphones to avoid listening fatigue and possible hearing damage. Going for over-ear models can be great for older adults in terms of comfort and sound quality — especially if they already wear hearing aids.

4. Get in the Kitchen

Visually impaired seniors may find it difficult to navigate kitchens on their own, especially around utensils like knives, burners, and other hazards. Still, cooking can enliven the senses in every way whether it’s the sizzling of a pan or the aromas swirling about — not to mention the tasting portion of it all! Better yet, helping people with visual impairments become more comfortable preparing their own meals can serve as a form of occupational therapy to maintain someone’s independence. Again, it is important to provide as much supervision as is needed without taking away someone’s enjoyment of the process — and at the end, you’ll both have a warm meal!

5. Play Card Games

Whether it’s a rainy day or someone prefers low energy activities, consider investing in some large-print or even those featuring braille. Playing cards is something that is great for social interactions, can be taken anywhere (parks, public transit, etc.) and can help pass the time. Although it’s not the most productive task in the world, playing card games is a nice end to a long day or just something that serves as a quick go-to activity without need much besides knowing the rules!

6. Meditation 

It’s becoming an increasingly popular means of practicing mindfulness, keeping calm, and just gaining more self-awareness — all things that visually impaired seniors could really benefit from! Although meditation is originally a product of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, it’s also become a largely secular practice which doesn’t require much context to be effective in terms of one’s health and mental state. For seniors, meditation can be achieved by simply finding a comfortable position to sit, closing one’s eyes, and focusing on the process of breathing and nothing else. Once you’ve established an easy, natural rhythm to your breath, just let your thoughts drift in and out of your mind without engaging any one in particular. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are lots of great resources helping you to learn the right techniques and methods! 

Finding activities for visually impaired seniors isn’t always obvious, but just be sure to use your best judgment and provide supervision where it’s needed. People who have difficulty seeing, or other impairments can often feel left out socially, that’s why helping them connect can be very important!

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