Just because they’re getting older, doesn’t mean your parents and other loved ones don’t crave some fun and variety. While sharing quality time is important, what to do can be a challenge.
Interesting and fun things to do with elderly parents consists of sharing quality time together, doing something of interest, and getting them engaged. Time is precious and this is the opportunity to make new memories.
Some of my fondest memories were the moments I shared with my parents during their senior years. Both have since passed and I feel fortunate I was able to liven their lives up while they were still healthy and active.
Based on my research and personal experience, the 21 fun things to do with elderly parents is intended to reveal new ideas you may not have thought about.
1. Play Cards or a Board Game
Playing cards or a board game is both mentally stimulating and a great way to pass the time. It’s also way better than sitting around watching TV. The key is you’re doing something together.
While everyone has a favorite, you might decide to learn a new game and change things up. Some of the most popular card games for seniors include:
Other options for games include scrabble, checkers, chess, battleship, Risk and many others. Even doing a puzzle together can make for a nice afternoon.
The cost is generally nothing or nominal, if you buy a new game or puzzle.
2. Cook Their Favorite Meal with Them
Cooking their favorite meal is a great way to share some quality time. Alternatively, maybe they’re feeling adventurous to try something new. They always say “variety is the spice of life”.
Especially if they live alone, cooking for one is difficult. Whereas whipping something up together can be an entertaining activity in itself.
Unless you’re buying ribeye steak or lobster, it probably won’t cost anything more than you’d normally spend. Having said that, maybe it’s worth splurging for something special.
3. A Leisurely Lunch on a Patio
Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house and grab a bite to eat. We’ve done this many times with Debbie’s stepfather. Not only is it something he looks forward to it, it’s a wonderful way to share time together.
We like to mix things up trying different places. When the weather’s decent, we look for a patio and half the entertainment is people watching.
Going out for lunch is less expensive than evening dining. And, often it’s the same menu! Just smaller portions which is just perfect for a senior.
4. Play Some Pickleball
Pickleball is not only fun, but a good way of meeting new people. In our post on How to Make Friends in Retirement, we discuss how easy it is to make new friends by playing Pickleball. It seems everyone’s giving it a try and coming back for more!
If you’re completely new to Pickleball, an excellent guide is Pickleball Kitchen’s post on How to Get Started in Pickleball: A Beginner’s Guide.
Your local recreational center likely has courts and paddles available for use at a nominal charge.
5. A Day at the Museum
When was the last time you visited your local museum?
Normally, we only think of them when out-of-town guests arrive. They’re a fantastic way to spend the day! Most offer informative video shows and rotate special exhibits.
When we were in New Orleans, we popped into their World War Two museum. I’ve never seen anything like it before and we easily could have spent a couple of days there. Another museum I hope to one day visit is the Smithsonian.
Admissions are generally reasonable, often with senior discounts offered. One of the less expensive fun things to do with elderly parents.
6. Art Gallery Visit
Art galleries are similar to museums and often overlooked. As my mother was an artist, she enjoyed seeing what was new. The exhibits are often rotated and refreshed so there was always something new to see.
Again, admissions are reasonable often with senior discounts.
7. Visit a Greenhouse
Greenhouses used to open up for a spring planting frenzy and be closed by mid-summer. Now, the larger ones remain open year-round. To attract patrons, they offer a multitude of interesting things to see and do.
They might offer classes or demonstrations. Anyone interested in gardening will find themselves engrossed. To encourage people to stay, they might have a restaurant serving quality, inexpensive food. Of course, don’t forget the gift shop.
While it’s free to browse, you might find yourself purchasing a plant or two. For the most part, this can be a low-cost interesting outing.
8. Take an Exercise Class
Hardly anyone likes doing things by themselves. To get your loved one more active, suggest going for a walk. Walking is often deemed as one of the best ways for seniors to stay active. Another idea is taking a class together, such as:
Check your local recreation complex for courses and pricing. Silver sneakers may also provide low-cost options.
9. Visit the Local Bowling Alley
Bowling used to be more popular back in the 50’s and 60’s. Yet, it’s one of those ageless sports that many seniors fondly remember and still enjoy. In fact, there’s even bowling leagues for those 55+.
Although cost varies across the country, the average cost of renting a lane is approximately $25.00 per hour. You’ll also need to rent shoes.
10. Pool or Billiards Hall
I didn’t realize how many “older gentlemen” are pool sharks in disguise. Certainly, my uncle was one and he whipped me quite handily. Yet, our afternoon was a blast.
If there's an old-fashioned pool house nearby, even better. They have those big tables and often décor from long ago.
Generally charged by the game or at an hourly rate. An afternoon will seldom cost more than $20, excluding food or drinks.
11. Attend a Community Event
What are the local community events in your area? Some examples might include:
Attending local events are a great way to feel more connected with your community and support local business.
Many are free or have a nominal admission fee. Any extras such as food or beverages will, obviously, be an additional cost.
12. Tour a Historical Site
Is he or she a bit of a history buff?
They might never have seen a local site because they’ve never had anyone to go with them. Another option could be a road trip.
Depending on where you live several examples could include the Smithsonian museum, Gettysburg or the Alamo. Obviously, there’s lots more options out there and depends on your interest.
Excluding travel costs, most historical sites are government funded with reasonable admission costs. Almost all will, also, have senior discounts.
13. Family Get Togethers
Sometimes it seems like we need a reason to get together. Either it’s a wedding, a funeral or some other such occasion. And time flies by.
This prompted me to host a family BBQ. Needless to say, my mother was delighted. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends I hadn’t seen in years attended. The weather was beautiful and everyone had a great time.
My mother fussed for days preparing side dishes. My focus was on taking care of the burgers. See our post How to Grill a Healthy Burger to create mouth-watering gourmet hamburgers.
Visiting family and friends is one of those activities that’s free. Even if they’re visiting you, throwing some food together isn’t a big deal. This is the ideal fun thing to do with elderly parents.
14. Visit Their Old Neighborhood
This could be an interesting afternoon, strolling through the neighborhood they grew up in. Seeing their childhood home and maybe the school. They might be enthralled and share stories of the good old days.
My father seldom spoke of his past. I never understood until we were invited to a reunion.
A rather unique reunion celebrating families all the way back to the depression era. He grew up in a small farming community devastated during those drought filled years.
The year was 1936 and the times were desperate. The entire family to returned to Minnesota, except my father. He was entrusted to look after the entire family wealth consisting of a ragged herd of cattle.
The herd foraged on open prairie, while he lived in a cave. That was his 16th winter, the longest and cruelest one of his life. If hadn’t been for the generosity of others, he may not have survived.
Visiting a neighborhood is completely free.
15. Research Family History
My mother also had quite the stories to share. Nothing as traumatic as my father, yet expanding upon our family history. When she decided to write her memoirs, I gladly helped with formatting it on the computer.
Needless to say, we spent many hours pulling it all together. She scoured through old family photos to add to those treasured memories. In hindsight, I wish we'd also made a video.
Another option could be researching your family tree. A membership on a site such as Ancestory.com or MyHeritage.com can help trace the family line back many generations.
If you already have some family information and want an easy way to create your tree, there's a free site providing a template at DNAWeekly.com/FamilyTreeMaker. This is a tip from one of our readers. It's easy to print and download and works great!
Cost $ to $$$$
Creating a family history doesn't need to cost you anything but your time. You could share electronic copies or print it off on your printer. For a more professional appearance, numerous options are available.
For instance, Costco offers photo book services starting around $20.00.
Doing family tree research is typically much more expensive. A membership for a year will set you back several hundred dollars. Any detailed searches going back several generations could cost thousands more.
16. A Night at the Theater
We're fortunate to have a couple of dinner theater venues nearby. Always an enjoyable evening out and something everyone appreciates.
Ticket prices are, generally, under a $100 per person. Mind you, a Broadway production in the Big Apple would likely blow my budget!
17. Spa Getaway
What self respecting woman doesn’t enjoy being pampered? Many spas offer an assortment of therapeutic treatments ideal for a luxurious day.
I love Debbie’s story of how she took her mother to an upscale spa resort. Built over a natural hot spring and specializing in every imaginable service.
Not only were they fully pampered, they even had a casino! Not sure how, but apparently her mother got lucky on the slots. The entire weekend was unforgettable and not the sort of thing they'd ever done before.
Spas are expensive, especially at those fancy resorts. Yet, some may offer senior discounts, price breaks during the off-season or for special occasions (such as a birthday). For Debbie and her mother, their entire weekend was under $500.00!
18. Charter a Fishing Boat
If they’re an avid fisherperson, consider chartering a fishing boat. Especially if it’s something they’ve never done before. There’s something magical about sport fishing and reeling in an elusive marlin.
Although not quite as glamorous, fresh water fishing with an experienced guide can be equally rewarding.
The hourly rate to charter a fishing boat in Florida ranges between $195 to $240 per hour. To minimize costs, invite a couple of other friends.
19. Bus Tours for Seniors
A multitude of companies specialize in senior bus tours. The greatest advantage is being able to sit back in an air-conditioned coach and relax. Everything is done for you allowing you to fully enjoy the experience.
Most include guided tours. Almost every imaginable itinerary is available. Popular ones include Yellowstone, Grand Teton or Mount Rushmore.
Cost will vary depending on how many days the tour is and what's included. A budget friendly tour starts around $100.00 a day. This would include transportation, accommodation and a guide.
You’re responsible for meals, gratuities and any other expenses. On the other hand, a deluxe tour could cost closer to $400.00 a day. Expect more upscale accommodation, meals and an overall more comprehensive package.
20. Take a Road Trip
Road trips are often planned around a final destination. For instance, visiting family and the grandchildren. Alternatively, the plan might be to see a national park, historic site or other points of interest.
The beauty of a road trip is the flexibility it affords. Lose the strict timetable or pushing yourself to crank out 500-mile days. It’s not a race or endurance contest.
Keep it leisurely with regular breaks and chances to stretch your legs. There’ll also be things to see on your way. Whenever something strikes your fancy, why not make a short side trip?
You can spend as little or as much as you want. Other than the cost of fuel, you’ll want to factor in expenses such as lodging, food and any sightseeing.
21. Go on a Cruise
While it sounds extravagant, this can be the adventure of a lifetime. My mother always spoke of one day seeing Alaska. Alas, my parents dream of driving the Alaska highway never came to pass.
To celebrate her 80th birthday, I booked a week-long Alaskan cruise. Thinking back, this was one of the most memorable experiences we were able to share.
Yet, as excited as she was, this was her first cruise and she had no idea what to expect. As it turned out, she absolutely loved it!
You see, most cruise lines cater to an older demographic and provide countless activities. These can include cultural enrichment presentations, trivia games, bingo, cooking classes, art auctions and so much more.
Also included are fine dining and live entertainment. Not to mention waking up in a new port almost every day. Our first stop was Ketchikan and stepping ashore was a dream come true.
The entire cruise was fabulous and the natural beauty stunning. We saw everything from whales to sailing up a glacier inlet. For my mother, this was the trip of a lifetime!
Cruises aren’t cheap; however, when you factor in transportation, accommodation, food, and entertainment, the prices aren’t out of line. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay anywhere from $200 - $400 a day.
The cost will vary based on cruise line, duration, cabin class and seasonality. In addition, there’s numerous “hidden charges” such as beverages, excursions, Internet access, upgraded dining options and gratuities.
Bonus Activity: Play Online Games with Them
Playing an online game can be a great way to share some time together. Besides the sheer entertainment value, an added benefit is many of these games are mentally stimulating.
In our article, Best Online Games for Older Adults, we review some of the many options which can be played on a phone or tablet.
Many games are free to download and play.
Closing Thoughts on Fun Things to Do with Elderly Parents
The 21 fun activities to do with elderly parents compiles a variety of ideas to liven things up. Some cost little or nothing and can make a big difference to your elderly loved ones. Other ideas are more expensive.
My perspective, if you can afford it, spoil them a little while you can. One of the greatest concerns in retirement is the ever-looming threat of boredom.
To address this and not surprisingly, one of our most popular posts is The Ultimate Guide of Things to Do in Retirement. Let’s be clear, these are supposed to be our “golden years”. It’s up to each of us to decide what that looks like.
For myself, it’s about living in the present and making the most of each day. I’m also grateful for the wonderful memories with my parents during their later years. You might also be interested in our How Do You Want to be Remembered post.