Senior Adults: 5 Boredom Busters to Beat the Stuck-Inside-Blues

We are about as far away from the dog days of summer as it gets, but January has its own dog days of winter blahs. It is easy to be locked inside unprepared by the wintry wonderland outside, so I offer to you five boredom busters to beat the stuck-inside-blues.

words + photographs MARK APPLEGATE

· Your home is your castle and if your castle is cluttered in the winter, it is an ever-present, underlying source of stress and potential fall hazard. January is a great month to order home organization products, since having a tidier and easier-to-navigate home is a common New Year’s resolution. Take advantage of sales and simplify a bit. Start small. Pick a drawer or closet and clean it out, donating excess items to a local charity or thrift shop. Know that every little bit helps, so don’t expect to finish the whole house in one weekend. In doing some needed decluttering, you will be able to find your important items easier and you will make your home safer in the process since falls are the cause of some 3 million emergency treatment visits per year.

· Tidy your personal castle too by finding an exercise regimen you can stick with. The winter is a common time of year to find an exercise program online or in-person and your local library (Greene County, Christian County) will have volumes of materials that can assist you. One example: Tai Chi is a helpful, low-impact exercise program that can easily be performed in a small area like a living room or den, and it works wonders at building flexibility and strength while helping improve balance. (One to try: Northview Center.) Contact your local Area Agency on Aging, a nearby senior center, or health club that offers programs geared toward seniors since many of them can offer their program through the internet. The Mercy Hospital system and the YMCA both offer inexpensive or donation-based beginners classes to get you started in this and similar disciplines.

Life is too short to sit around and try to wait out these winter blahs. Today is the day to get busy helping yourself and others.

· Pay it forward through pen pal programs, and make some friends in the process. The pandemic forced many of us to search out ways to connect with friends and family while distancing/sheltering in place. One blast from the past that has made a resurgence is making pen pals through mailing hand-written letters. Entire nonprofits have cropped up with the intent to keep this safe because scams using pen pal programs are a frustrating reality. Senior centers (example: Alton Mo. Senior Center), some assisted living facilities, and other civic organizations, and some schools have joined this effort to rekindle the written letter again. Here are a few legit links if you are interested in joining these letter brigades: Link Link (Explanation of this one), or contact your local high school guidance counselor. Added safety tip: Consider signing up to a PO Box if you are starting this endeavor

· Scrapbooking is a multi-billion-dollar industry, for many good reasons. For one, in a generation of “digital” everything, including storing a multitude of pictures on the internet, many still see the benefit of printing out pictures as a hard copy for posterity. Consider even a basic scrapbook project and start documenting all of your stories so future generations can benefit from them too. There are countless themed materials for scrapbooking available at local specialty shops and online. While the cosmetics of these archives can be very fun to fancy up, the information you provide can actually better future generations and allow them to reconnect with you after you are gone. If you are tech-savvy and want to leverage this skill in a similar project, Ozark Technical Community College offers an introductory course on digital scrapbooking using the Adobe Suite of tools.

Mark Applegate with his mom, who has dementia. Read more about their experiences at Digital Cornbread.

· Whether just spending a little time outside on a nice day or heading somewhere more seasonally pleasing for a trip, there are still plenty of options to get out of the house. One of the great things about Ozarks’ winters is the climate is very diverse. All winter long, there are days suitable for an afternoon at the Springfield Conservation Nature CenterNathanael Greene Park, or even just a walk around the block to get some life-giving and badly needed fresh air. Feeling a strong enough case of cabin fever that a short adventure just won’t fix it? This time of year is a great time to fly south to enjoy the more pleasant temperatures. However, consider booking your adventure through a reputable travel agent that stays current on travel restrictions and other Covid-19 considerations. Even if a full-service agent costs a little bit more, know airlines are offering bargains to get people traveling again. You may be able to afford more than you expected.

Life is too short to sit around and try to wait out these winter blahs. Today is the day to get busy helping yourself and others. MA

Mark Applegate is a Christian, husband, dad, and cornbread-cooking, IT geek, writer, and runner on-the-side. He has lived in the Ozarks his whole life, attended Missouri State University, studied briefly in Israel, married his high school sweetheart, and has since lived happily ever after. Mark is currently director of systems alignment for SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging and loves working with and for seniors. Read more from Mark on his personal blog, Digital Cornbread.

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