IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS)
Volume 19, Issue 4, Ver. VII (Apr. 2014), PP 24-30
e-ISSN: 2279-0837, p-ISSN: 2279-0845.
www.iosrjournals.org 24 | Page
Recreational Activities for Senior Citizens
*Bhawana Singh, **U. V. Kiran
*Research Scholar **Assistant Professor
Department of Human Development & Family Studies, School for Home Sciences,
Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Central University Lucknow, India- 225026
Abstract: Recreation plays a key role in the well-being of older adults and in enhancing their quality of life.
For seniors, as for people of all ages, involvement in recreation activities can satisfy a variety of needs. Among
the important benefits of recreation for the senior population is increased health and fitness, as well as
opportunities for socializing, for using skills and talents developed throughout their lifetime, and for learning
new skills. The aim of this article is to dwell upon various recreational activities for the elderly. These activities
are very useful to them as they can spend their leisure time and enjoy by doing interesting tasks. The senior
population is quite varied, with a diversity of interests, strengths, and abilities. Some seniors have enjoyed a
positive use of leisure throughout their life, and are able to find appropriate activities to suit their changing
physical abilities and interests. Other seniors, however, may not be aware of the potential positive values of
Keywords: Elderly, physical activity, recreational activity,
The ageing of population is an obvious consequence of the process of demographic transition. While
the countries of the West have already experienced and have planned for their elderly population, it is only in
the last one and half decades that countries in Asia too are facing a steady growth of the elderly, as a result of
the decline in fertility and mortality, better medical and health care and improvements in the overall quality of
life of people. Within Asia, as India and China are the two largest countries in the region, it is expected that they
would have a significant proportion of the World‘s elderly because of their large population base. In fact, the
situation in India presents two different scenarios with certain states grappling with curbing their high fertility
rates while others, which have controlled high fertility rates, are already experiencing or are poised to
experience an increase in their elderly population.
There has been a progressive increase in both the number and proportion of the aged in India over time,
particularly after 1951. Between 1901 and 1951, the proportion of population over age 60 increased marginally
from 5 percent to 5.4 percent, while by 2001 this had increased to 7.0 percent. When changes in the decadal
growth rate in the general population are compared with those for the elderly population, it is noted that the
latter grew at a relatively much faster rate than the general population, since 1951. Furthermore, the decadal
percent increase in the elderly population for the period 2001-2011 is likely to be more than double the rate of
increase of the general population. The size of the elderly rose in absolute terms during the last century from 12
million in 1901 to approximately 71 million in 2001 and is likely to reach 113 million in 2016. Yet another
feature of ageing in India is the fact that the proportion of elderly is much higher in the rural areas than in the
In recent years, there has been an increase of aging in the society. The aging of the population can lead
to an increase in the number of individuals at risk for chronic diseases. In an article from the Center for Disease
Control and Prevention‘s Healthy Aging Network, physical activity (PA) was considered one key element for
determining health status. In fact, evidence suggests that PA is associated with more years of life, self-perceived
healthy life, years without impairment in daily life activities, lower rates of functional decline, lower risk of
mortality, increased longevity, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and better quality of life.
Being active throughout the majority of one's lifetime has an important influence on overall health and
well-being. The widely known definition of physical activity (PA) as "any bodily movement produced by the
contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above a basal level". PA has been found to
check many long lasting health problems as well as to promote mental health and well-being. Lower mortality
rates occur among those who become physically active late in life as compared to those who were active in early
life and stopped exercising.
Outdoor recreational PA, defined as "to be outside in natural or cultural landscapes for well-being and
encounters with nature without demands for competition" has been shown to be particularly good for promoting
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well-being. PA performed outdoors in original settings has been found to have restorative effects on people's
health and reduce mental fatigue.
II. Relationship between Mental Health and Organized Recreational Activity
A review of current literature indicates that people who participate in sports clubs and organized
recreational activity enjoy better mental health, are more alert, and more pliable against the stresses of modern
living. Engaged in recreational groups and socially supported physical activity is shown to overcome stress,
anxiety and depression, and mitigate the symptoms of Alzheimer‘s disease. Violent crime also reduces
significantly when participation in community activities increases.
Links between mental health and group activities
Participation in sports and recreation activities can decrease stress, depression and anxiety. Engaged in
the group recreation provides a sense of attachment, belongingness and positive values. According to Bandura‘s
social cognitive theory, behaviour is shaped by the interaction between individual and environmental factors.
This theory emphasizes the influence of social interaction in relation to behaviour. There are both direct and
indirect links between participation in group activity and mental health.
Recreation activities for seniors
Gone are the days when retirees used to sit at home and feel old. It is important for older adults to stay
active after retirement and be participative in the community. The choices for outdoor recreation are
unavoidable. There are many centers that offer various classes and courses in exercise programs, crafts and arts,
and other outings.
PA is a wide-ranging term that includes a variety of activities. Recreation activities for seniors provide long
term advantages. Higher fitness levels, improved health and social interactions are few of the benefits of
indulging in fun activities. It is therapeutic refreshment for both the mind and body.
Walking is one of the most common exercises. It is enjoyable and a social activity that can also be
carried on with friends and family members. There is nothing like avail some fresh air in lush green
surroundings. It helps to reduce depression and lower down the stress, thus maintaining emotional well being
whether you have a company or not. It is perhaps the best form of physical exercise for all age groups. The
chance to inhale fresh air and see the greenery helps in reducing depression and helps maintain emotional well
being. It also gives a chance to meet other people. The older adults must wear comfortable walking shoes, which
will give support to their feet and they will not make them feel tired. For those who feel the requirement for
intermediate support or a need to hold on to something, carrying a stick is a good idea. For those who can go for
longer walks easily, or choose to go and sit in the park, or garden, carrying a bottle of water would help them to
take care of thirst. However, if one is on a wheelchair, going to parks and gardens may not be very feasible
owing to the physical barriers. There is however another boon – the malls, which can be accessed even in
wheelchairs, with a helper. For the wheelchair borne, these walks may not be possible everyday but can be
clubbed with window shopping, if one is interested and perhaps a coffee, with a friend, acquaintance, or a
A great activity for people who love nature but cannot go for nature walks, in the fields or forests
because of physical problems or deformities, lack of transport, companions or any other practical problem, then
there is no need to go to the forests for this. A park is the good idea to start this activity.
Another activity is photography. For which a camera is to be needed. A practical way is getting hold of
a digital camera, and clicking whatever interesting, and capturing it in the camera. It could be a theme – like
nature, or vehicles, or humans, anything that holds attention. This can then be even consolidated into a
scrapbook kind of file in a computer.
Gardening is a nice leisure activity for older adults. It helps people to connect with the nature. Just need
a small patch of land or a plot that will keep the elderly occupied, or a few pots that can keep in the balcony or
just outside the house, and some bright coloured equipment. One can grow vegetables and create a beautiful
garden. This activity should be followed only during the morning and evening hours avoiding peak hours. A
purposeful activity that connects to the nature. A few websites and books are enough to help the elderly, create a
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garden and may be even grow some vegetables. It is advised, not to step out for doing gardening when it is very
warm outside, do it in the mornings and evenings. It is also obvious that, do not lift out anything heavy like pots,
which might cause strain to the back. If already have a back problem then it would help to put the pots in an
elevated place so that the elderly people do not have to bend too much.
If physical health and doctor permits, sports is a very good physical exercise and recreational activity –
be it swimming, badminton, tennis, golf or any other which may interesting to the older adults. It is also an
excellent way to meet other people socially.
This is one activity suggested by all doctors and health practitioners for all age groups, the senior
citizens are not different. Different forms of exercise are now being practiced which are a great form of
relaxation apart from helping physical and mental fitness.
Yoga Yoga is aimed at achieving the union with supreme consciousness. However, it helps to achieve
physical as well as mental fitness. A TV series by a professional Yoga Guru gives an idea about the benefits of
Yoga and how to practice. It is however essential to learn appropriate and right postures from a good teacher of
Tai-Chi Chinese martial art that is getting a lot of recognition, especially for older adults because of its 'soft
skills' and health and longevity benefits. It has long movements, which flow in a slow and graceful manner.
Each posture flows into the next without any pause. Just as Yoga, Tai-chi is very beneficial for various diseases
like osteoporosis, diabetes, arthritis etc.
Art of living
The Art of Living initiatives strive to uphold the dignity of every human being on the earth, offering
each individual a stress-free life, a healthy body and the opportunity to maximize their potential for personal and
spiritual growth. Sri Ravi Shankar has designed many self-development techniques which can easily be
integrated into daily life to calm the mind and in still confidence and enthusiasm.
Senior citizens should be encouraged to take part in mind games. They should solve puzzles like
crosswords, brain teasers and sudoku focus on doing mathematical calculations. These are very brneficial for
exercising the mind. It also prevents from the serious old age ailments like Alzheimer‘s disease.
The list of outdoor activities is not limited to this. Older adults can use their own imagination and do whatever
they enjoy, to occupy their time and give them a sense of fulfilment. They perhaps would be benefited more if
they set aside a time for the activity/activities that they want to do, for example, go for a walk. If they set a time
everyday as their ‗walk time', they would be mentally prepared and physically groomed, their brain would be
disciplined and they would look forward to it.
Though outdoor activities should be preferred but when conditions are not in older adult‘s favour then
there are several activities like listening to music, scrap-booking and collage making. It is fun and creative to
gather all the photographs and momentos together. Spending time with family members or friends and playing
board games with other elderly friends is also a stress buster.
Seniors should be involved in other activities like sewing, dancing, bird watching, art classes, card playing,
parties etc. There are many centres that are free where elders can volunteer and explore their creativity.
Dancing to your favourite beats is rejuvenating and stress buster.
Field trips and visiting the outskirts of the city or going for a picnic are enjoyable and fun. Many
organizations also have cultural activities and competition.
Elderly can enjoy the club culture in the retirement community and indulge in activities like cards, swimming
pool, health clubs and sports like table tennis, billiards, lawn tennis, snooker and even visit the library.
It is the best time to explore creative side for senior citizens. If older adults have an inclination towards
a particular activity or hobby like photography or dancing then they should be given a boost and motivation to
nurture their talent. Keep them engaged in various activities for emotional, physical and spiritual well being.
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Elderly men and women often need recreational activities to stay better in mental and physical health. There are
various recreational activities available to elderly women and men to suit almost any interest. Before starting
any physical recreation, elderly women and men should consult a doctor to determine how much activity is
Older persons who are in good physical and mental health can volunteer at any organizations hospitals
or animal shelters. These types of volunteer activities not only make a difference in the other‘s lives, but give an
elderly people a sense of purpose.
Elderly can work on their favourite recreations to stay active and healthy. Old favourites might include
interests such as fishing or gardening or it might include games like cards, bingo or puzzles, crossword. Singing,
cooking and Reading might even fall in the category of old favourites. For elderly women and men who have
physical challenges preventing the old favourites, bringing it into their space can help as well.
Community Centre Recreations
Community centres offer recreational activities for all age group, including the elderly. Recreations for
senior citizens might include swimming recreations or sports geared to healthy older adults. Usually, community
centre recreations are sports and fitness, but games like cards, bingo as well as chess might be available.
The child of an elderly parent might take his parent out for a day for fishing, an outdoor sport such as
hunting, hiking or even golf, depending on the outdoor activities. Every healthy elderly person is able to enjoy
outdoor recreations with children. For those who are physical disabled, recreations like fishing are ideal, as it
allows them to enjoy the outdoors while sitting still.
Recreational Activities for the Older Adults
Old age is often referred to as the 'second childhood'. During this stage most of the elderly people tend
to behave like a small child, not listening to what others say and become stubborn. This might be due to the
reason that majority of the people incur the problem of brain shrinkage, as they grow older. Therefore, we need
to give the senior citizens special care and attention and treat them just like our little ones. Keeping them busy in
recreational activities is the best idea, to fill the gap that comes along with retirement and old age.
Recreational Activity Ideas for Older Adults
Enroll the elderly person in a club that organizes activities involving the active participation of volunteers.
If the club organizes health camps and rehab, competitions or hobby classes, it will be the best option for
the older adults, who wants to pass their leisure time in a productive way.
A fun way to keep a senior citizen busy for the maximum time is to arrange arts and crafts competitions. If
elderly‘s residential association organizes cultural activities and day trips, be sure that the elderly person
must take part in them. It will definitely rejuvenate their spirit.
Dedicated volunteering in schools, colleges and local community centres can help the senior citizens attain
self-satisfaction that they have rendered service during the post-retirement period, without sitting idle.
To kill the boredom, arrange easy and fun games for the elderly person, when we are spending time with
the elderly. This could be as simple as the good old 'passing the parcel' game. Ask the little ones in our
family, to play with their grandpa/grandma for some time.
If an elderly person has inclination towards any type of activity, be sure to address it. For instance, if an
elderly is interested in taking photographs, provide them a camera. Take them to the places where they can
click nice pictures.
Reading is something that the majority of older adults like to do, in a free time. Gift some books for them.
We may present a library membership to them as well, so that they get the supply of their favourite books
all through the year.
Give food to their brain - organize mental exercises, like puzzles, for the senior citizens. We can also get
some printed brain teasers, like crossword puzzles and Sudoku.
Physical activity for older adults
Regular exercise is a best way to live a long and healthy life.
There are many health and lifestyle benefits of physical activity for senior citizens. People, whose lifestyle is
active, feel healthy and have an improved sense of wellbeing. Besides feeling better, a regular exercise reduces
the risk of diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer and stroke.
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Elderly should be active
Researches shows that elderly‘s with active lifestyles are often as healthy as less active people aged 15
One of the best ways of living a long and healthy life is through physical exercise. However, physical
exercise comes in many ways and forms, including walking, housework and gardening to the shops to buy the
milk or newspaper.
Regular physical activity helps reduce the effects of aging such as muscle strength, balance, limited
mobility and flexibility. It also reduces the risk of osteoporosis and heart problems, as well as keeping older
adults in a happy and healthy frame of mind.
One way older adults are beating the stereotyped "old" image is through remaining socially and
physically active. From dancing, golf, bushwalking, swimming, tennis or simply gardening or walking the dog,
all these activities play a important role in ensuring their look and feel younger, healthier, and have a better
quality of life.
It's never too late to start exercising
Forget thinking that we (elderly) are too old to do physical exercise - once they become more active
they will find that they have more energy, sleep better, and will feel more self confident.
There are no rules or age limits to physical exercise. Irrespective of how old they are or how often they have
exercised in the past, there is no time like the present to begin doing regular physical exercise. They will begin
to feel healthier and have more energy almost immediately.
The secret is to start off slowly with activities they enjoy, and gradually build on these. It would not seem like a
chore if you choose activities they like.
The important thing about taking regular exercise is to start today. Just 30 minutes every day can keep
you feeling younger, healthier and more energetic. You can break that 30 minutes down into 10 minute blocks,
making the daily amount of physical activity recommended much easier to achieve.
Focus on getting started, maintaining a routine and enjoying the benefits of physical activity.
Getting started can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the escalator, walking to the shops, or getting off
the bus one stop earlier. Once they have started these simple things, it is then time to build on this exercise with
some other pleasurable physical activities.
Choose activities that they enjoy – you will be surprised at how quickly time goes by. If elderly people
enjoy gardening, then make a point of doing it for a little longer. Or take the dog for a longer walk.
Try a few different activities until they find one that suits them. You will find it is then easier to maintain a
routine, and they could also make new friends.
It is also important to exercise at times that suit them; otherwise it will feel like a chore. The aim
should be to fit physical activity into their everyday schedule.
As people grow older their participation in leisure and recreation activities changes because of life
cycle transitions such as retirement from paid work and the ―empty nest‖ experienced by parents as children
grow up and leave home. In later years such participation can also be expected to change further because of
declining physical and mental capacity. Leisure time has been defined ―as a time when people can do what they
want to do, away from work and other commitments‖ (Ministry of Social Development, 2008: 86). Recreation
can often involve a physical activity or sport. Leisure and recreation as the Ministry of Social Development
describe them in their Social Reports are a means to:
provide people with a sense of identity and personal autonomy
add meaning to individual and community life, and
encourage personal growth and self-expression
The elder people have sufficient time to do what they want to do and can access an adequate range of
opportunities for leisure and recreation‖. The Ministry of Social Development stated that the higher the measure
of participation in either physical or cultural and arts activities, the greater the level of wellbeing.
Over the past few decades the relationship between leisure activities and wellbeing in later life has
been studied extensively (Havighurst, 1961). Early gerontology researchers maintained activity was positively
related to the wellbeing of older people (Havighurst, Neugarten & Tobin, 1964), and one of the founding
theories of ageing was built on this idea. Entitled ―activity theory‖, successful ageing was seen as benefiting
from continued or enhanced physical and mental activity in older years. The theory was developed as an
opposing view to the ―disengagement theory‖ previously developed by Cumming and Henry (1961), and which
suggested that growing older was associated with varying stages of disengagement from society, both in the
interests of the individual and of society in general.
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The impact of the cultural and social context on the level of participation of older people in leisure and
recreation is an increasing theme in the research. The leisure and recreation pursuits undertaken in one‘s earlier
years are more likely to be continued in one‘s older years – ―older people tend to continue participating in
activities with which they are familiar for security as well as reassurance‖ (Nimrod & Kleiber, 2007). Leisure
and recreational pursuits have often been taken to include activities which are largely physical.
The evidence is compelling. Recreation, physical activity, sports and leisure are not only essential resources for
promoting optimal mental health and well-being, but they are critical components of efforts to recover from and
stay well when living with a mental illness or addiction.
Free time context: Term used primarily in the leisure sciences literature to refer to unobligated time, outside
of work, school, or self-care activities. Typically we think of this as ―free time‖, such as after school or work,
in the evenings and weekends.
Discretionary time: Term used in the developmental psychology literature to refer to free time. Like the term
―free time,‖ this includes the afterschool context as well as evenings and weekends. The term ―extracurricular
activities‖ is often used in conjunction with studies of adolescents‘ discretionary time.
Leisure: Refers to enjoyable and personally meaningful activity in the free time context. Leisure is often
associated with a sense of freedom and intrinsic motivation (doing something because they want to, not
because they have to). Categories of leisure typically include: social (e.g., spending time with friends),
creative or expressive (e.g., artistic pursuits), cognitive (e.g., reading), spiritual (e.g., meditation) or physical
(e.g., walking, gardening).
Structured Leisure Activities: Refers to leisure or recreation activities that occur in the free time context that
are typically deeply engaging (e.g., require an investment of attention and effort) and support personal
expression. Examples include volunteering, sports or club activities. This is sometimes also referred to as
Unstructured Leisure Activities: Unstructured leisure typically refers to ―doing nothing‖ or passive forms of
activity that require low levels of engagement and often occur outside of organized recreation or leisure
contexts (e.g., going to the movies, hanging out, going to the mall, watching television, listening to music in
room). This term is most often used in relation to adolescent or adult leisure.
Physical Activity: Is often associated with various forms of exercise, but can include vigorous leisure or
recreation activities. Examples include: bicycling, gardening, walking, golf, swimming, tennis, etc.
Recreation: Typically associated with structured or organized group activities which are intentionally
designed to benefit communities, groups or individuals. Camaraderie, skill development, fitness and
enjoyment tend to be primary motivations for recreation participation. Depending on the degree of
specialization, participation with sports, creative arts, or service groups are considered forms of structured
Sport: Typically defined as an organized, competitive activity, requiring adherence to rules and/or customs
and specific skills to play; the objective is often associated with winning or losing. We typically think of
sports as being athletic competitions, but competitive games requiring intellectual skills and challenges (e.g.,
chess) are also considered ―sport.‖
Play: Although there are many different definitions and theories of play—and adults also play—here we view
play as spontaneous, unstructured, child-directed activity which is fun, freely chosen, actively engaging, and
intrinsically motivated (e.g., done for its own sake as opposed to having to or for some external reward or
achievement motive); it typically involves children interacting with others and/or their environment and may
involve the suspension of reality and/or ―rules‖ of play.
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