Things to Know About Activities for Senior Men

small dog on seniors lap

Don’t forget the men when it comes to activity planning.

My dad has been retired for 32 years. That’s a lot of activities for a man now 97 years old. During his retirement he has had great opportunities for experiencing the activities and hobbies he likely had very little time for during his working years. He traveled, visited family, built things, gold panned in the mountains, camped, fished, spoke to groups about his World War II experiences, and so many other active hobbies. Does he participate in all of those activities now? No, activities have changed from being quite active to now a bit of a slower pace.

The First Thing to Know—Participation changes.

Activity interests and participation in activities change over time. When my dad stopped wanting to travel and see things, it surprised me. When he wanted to stop going on family camping and fishing trips, I was heartbroken. Camping just wouldn’t be the same! My mom said he is just more comfortable at home.

Participation in an activity may not be exactly the same or an elder may not want to participate at all. I found that with my dad he didn’t want to camp in a trailer, but decided he would go to my sister’s cabin in the mountains for a few days where he had comforts of home. My dad doesn’t want to fish anymore, but he loves to hear our fishing stories. He still has a fishing pole and all his fishing gear, which is a good way to reminisce. Some elders, however, may not have any interest in an activity they once loved. Some men may feel that if they cannot fully participate, they won’t do it at all. Some have lost their friends over the years, the friends they spent the day gold panning with. There could be various reasons why.

The Second Thing to Know-Gender specific activities still exists

To some degree, men were probably influenced during their younger years to participate in “guy activities” just as girls were to participate in “girl activities”. Now, anyone can and is encouraged to participate in any sport, any hobby, any activity they find interesting and fun. It may be engrained in our older generation, however, to stick to the activities they grew up enjoying and participating in. So you may not get Dad, who has never cooked or baked, to enjoy a day making cookies with the Grandkids. Unless of course he wants to taste test. Then again, you might be surprised if he gets a chance to handle the mixer. He might just have fun.

The Third Thing to Know—The sensory and the simple activities are sometimes the most meaningful.

Don’t overlook the simple and the sensory activities. My sister-in-law’s father has enjoyed quite an active retired life. He travelled, he camped, he fished, he enjoyed spending time with the family. He still enjoys those things, but like my father, has come to enjoy activities at home. “It’s the simple things he now enjoys”, she says. At Christmas, he requested for his grandchildren to bring their dogs because he missed spending time with pets. He also enjoys having lotion massaged into his hands and arms which is relaxing for him. Holding his great-grandchildren is a joy.

These activities show us that our sense of touch is just as strong in our older age as any other age though elders may not be touched as frequently. We need sensory activities which connects us to the world around us and makes us feel a part of something bigger. Whether it’s petting a dog, getting a massage, giving a hug, or holding a hand, these activities keep us in the present moment and connected to loved ones. Being touched makes us feel like we are here and we matter. Men, especially older men, who learned to hold emotions, are no different.

The Fourth Thing to Know—How to make a plan for the man.

Activities for men should be based first on their past and current interests. From there, based on their ability, they may actively or passively participate in that activity. Being passive could mean, for example, that Dad may have been on a baseball team when he was younger and is still interested in the game, but now just likes to watch it on TV. Or they may have once had an interest, but no longer want to participate at all. Also consider whether they like to be with others or enjoy activities alone or in smaller groups of people. Being comfortable socializing with others does matter. It’s also important to consider their needs, like the need for others to speak loudly due to hearing loss or someone who may need assistance with reading. You’ll want Dad to feel successful at any activity he chooses to do.

Lastly do consider activities that may appeal to men. In my experiences working with elder men, they do enjoy each others company as well as participating together in “men’s groups”.

Activities can range from the simple everyday activities to activities that are more active. Here are some ideas to add to your activity list that Dad may want to try. This is not a comprehensive list.

Simple Activities

Listening to radio (music or talk radio); hand massages; pet visits; children’s visits; shooting the breeze with family and friends; reading the newspaper or books; reminiscing; going for a drive; tinkering; religious practices like reading the bible; watching a favorite TV program; listening to favorite music; going for walks; talking with neighbors; some woodworking projects (like those that involve sanding and painting.); paper puzzles like Sudoku, crosswords, and mazes; etc.

Active Activities

Gardening; men’s clubs (like the Elks, VFW, etc.); woodworking; tinkering with motors and tech devices; going on trips (out to eat, senior/recreation center, shopping, antique store, church, etc.); golfing; horseshoes; fishing; boating; poker night; playing an instrument; etc.