Arts, crafts, and other creative activities have countless benefits for seniors. For example, crafts keep the mind active and help prevent anxiety. They can also grant a sense of achievement and improve self-esteem. And for seniors who are cooped up in the house or a care center, crafts can help facilitate socialization.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Fall or Thanksgiving-Themed Crafts for Aging Adults
- Winter or Holiday-Themed Crafts for Aging Adults
- Summer-Themed Crafts for Aging Adults
- Craft Ideas for Seniors With Limited Dexterity
- Craft Ideas for Seniors in a Nursing Home
If you’re looking for activities to do with retired parents or grandparents, arts and crafts are an excellent choice. Below, we’ll give you some ideas for crafts that are perfect for seniors, from holiday art to projects for limited dexterity.
Fall or Thanksgiving-Themed Crafts for Aging Adults
Fall is the perfect time for crafts, no matter what your age. The weather’s cooling down, the leaves are changing, and the holidays are approaching.
Seniors might need new activities to keep them busy throughout the cooler months, or they might be inspired by the scenery to express their artistic abilities. And fall crafts have the added benefit of helping you decorate for the holidays.
If you’re looking for arts and crafts that are perfect for seniors during the fall and around Thanksgiving, try out the ideas below.
1. Fall luminaries
A luminary is a beautiful and decorative craft that the artist can enjoy for years to come. And it’s fun and easy to make, too! Better still, part of this craft involves going outside to enjoy the crisp autumn air.
First, you’ll need some mason jars. They should be large enough to hold a battery-powered tea light.
Next, gather up some fall leaves from outside. To create the luminaries, you’ll use PVA glue to coat the sides of the jar. Lay down the leaves in overlapping patterns, and then apply another layer of glue.
When you place the tea light inside and turn it on, you’ll have a beautiful, fall-themed luminary.
2. Recipe book
If your parent or grandparent cooked or baked special dishes every Thanksgiving, they might enjoy making an artistic family recipe book.
A hand-made recipe book can showcase all of the recipes they learned from their parents, passed on through the generations. And it can give them the satisfaction of knowing that the family recipes will continue to be enjoyed at future holiday celebrations.
A senior can hand-write their family recipes down on fall-themed stationery. Then bind the pages together using yarn or by placing them into a binder. For an added personal touch, the senior can write down an anecdote or favorite memory for each dish, too.
You can even help them take pictures of their famous dishes to include alongside the recipes.
3. Family tree
Another craft that includes paper and pen is a family tree. You can do this craft any time of the year, but Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity. It’s a holiday all about togetherness and family, so a family tree fits right in.
There are multiple ways to make a family tree, from detailed paintings to a simple photo collage. One of the easiest methods for making a family tree is by using colorful construction paper leaves on a large piece of poster board.
Winter or Holiday-Themed Crafts for Aging Adults
Some of the best arts and crafts projects are winter-themed. And that’s great because seniors might have fewer activities to keep them busy during the winter months.
As the holidays approach, seniors might want to create meaningful gifts for family members or just decorate their space with colorful art. If you’re looking for the perfect winter craft idea for seniors, consider the winter- and holiday-themed projects below.
4. Holiday wreaths
A holiday wreath is a lovely way to decorate for the holidays and let a senior’s personality shine. You can provide an assortment of materials to create wreaths, or you can let the seniors choose their own materials and come up with a unique wreath idea.
Another decorative holiday craft is a Christmas tree ornament. Some DIY ornaments out there are complex and detailed. But you can also find craft ideas for simple and easy ornaments, perfect for seniors.
Check out these ideas, for example, for some unique but easy-to-make DIY ornaments.
6. Orange and clove pomander balls
Pomander balls are a unique but traditional holiday craft that incorporates the sense of smell. They also look festive and are easy to make.
Pomander balls are citrus fruits (traditionally oranges) studded with whole cloves. If created correctly, you can make a pomander ball over Thanksgiving and it will last through the holiday season.
Here’s a good explanation of how to make great-smelling and beautiful-looking pomander balls.
Summer-Themed Crafts for Aging Adults
For many people, summer is ideal for spending time outdoors and breathing in the fresh air. But many seniors are limited in what they can do when it comes to outdoor activities in the summer. They might have to stay indoors much of the day, avoiding intense summer temps.
For those summer days when a senior’s stuck inside, these summery crafts can help make the most of their time.
7. Rainbow luminaries
If you like the idea of the fall leaf luminary described above and want to make something similar in the spring or summer, you can.
Instead of using fall leaves, use colorful contact paper to create an eye-catching candle holder for your battery-powered tea light.
8. Homemade photo frames
Nothing brightens up a room like a photo of family and friends. Seniors might want to decorate their own space with a unique photo frame, or they might want to give one to family members as a gift. Either way, a homemade photo frame is an excellent craft for elderly individuals.
You can provide plenty of plain photo frames in a variety of sizes, as well as all of the materials needed to make it their own. Photo frames are also a great craft idea for seniors to do with their family members, including grandchildren.
Craft Ideas for Seniors With Limited Dexterity
Making art, and even just viewing art, can improve cognitive function for seniors. It helps the brain create new neural networks and adapt to new situations. So seniors with neurological illnesses that affect dexterity, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, can benefit even more from creating arts and crafts.
At the same time, though, crafts can be difficult for seniors with limited dexterity. It’s important to choose projects that don’t cause frustration or highlight the person’s limitations.
So if you want to help a senior with limited dexterity express themselves creatively and spend some time making arts and crafts, consider the ideas below.
9. Tape painting
Painting intricate shapes by hand can be difficult for a senior with limited dexterity. But they can get the same satisfaction of creating something new and unique with paint through the use of the tape-painting method.
To do this craft, you’ll need a piece of poster board, acrylic paints, and painter’s tape, as well as a large or medium paintbrush. The artist should make geometric shapes using the tape, and then paint over the design using different colors. When you peel off the tape, you’ll reveal a beautiful and unique pattern.
10. Clay sculpting
Clay art might be one of the messier crafts, but it’s perfect for seniors with limited dexterity. Their fingers might not be as nimble as they used to be, but they can still push, pull, and play with clay. They can even make something functional, like a cup or a bowl.
If you want to keep the mess to a minimum and keep things simple, try these easy crafts using air-dry clay instead.
Craft Ideas for Seniors in a Nursing Home
Seniors living in nursing homes might not have access to many of the daily activities they’re used to. Especially during crises like COVID-19, a senior’s day might be extremely limited in terms of socialization and unique experiences. And this lack of stimulation can lead to anxiety and depression for seniors who are already coping with health problems and other difficulties.
Creative pursuits, like arts and crafts, are key to helping seniors feel accomplished and find meaning in their downtime. So whether you work at a nursing home or you’re planning a visit to an elderly loved one, consider the craft ideas for seniors in care homes, below.
A suncatcher is a perfect craft for seniors to create and take back to their rooms in assisted living. It’s fun to make, as well as beautiful to look at day after day. The artist hangs the suncatcher in the window of their room to reflect sunlight, and its appearance even changes depending on the weather.
To make a suncatcher, you’ll need:
- Mason jar lids or plastic container lids
- Colored glass beads
- A needle or pin
- Clear-dry glue
Check out Method 2 here to learn how to make a glass bead suncatcher. Seniors might also enjoy making suncatchers using the other two methods listed.
12. Painted pots
Another craft that helps seniors spruce up their space in assisted living is painting terracotta pots. Making a clay pot from scratch might be beyond a bit challenging and messy. But painting and decorating a pot can be just as fun, and a whole lot easier.
Provide the seniors with terracotta pots in different shapes and sizes. Maybe they can paint one for themselves and one for a loved one. Lay out a variety of paints and stencils for them to use. You could even provide added decorative elements like hot glue and beads.
When the pots are done, the seniors can plant succulents in them and place them in their rooms or around the community areas. Or they can give them to family members as gifts.
Benefits of Arts and Crafts for Seniors
Working on a craft project like the ones listed above is a fun way to pass the time, no matter your age. But did you know that expressive arts offer vital health benefits to seniors, too?
New research shows that artistic activities can reduce the depression and anxiety associated with chronic illness and aging. Studies even show us that crafts can help seniors, including those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other degenerative diseases, unlock their unique creative potentials.
And that’s important: seniors have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with younger generations. Sometimes, art is the key to expressing those thoughts, memories, and emotions.
- Bagan, Barbara. “Aging: What’s art got to do with it?” Today’s Geriatric Medicine. https://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/news/ex_082809_03.shtml
- Poskin, Ashley. “Make all-natural, great smelling orange pomanders for the holidays.” Apartment Therapy. 30 April 2019. https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/easy-to-make-christmas-orange-pomander-balls-238705
- Picard, Caroline and Garrity, Amanda. “75+ homemade Christmas ornaments to easily personalize your tree.” Good Housekeeping. 09 December 2020. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/christmas-ideas/g393/homemade-christmas-ornaments/
- “10 things to make with air dry clay: fun and beautiful projects.” Fun Loving Families. 10 June 2020. https://www.funlovingfamilies.com/things-to-make-with-air-dry-clay/