Written by Jeff Smith
For many, Fall is considered the best time of the year. The temperatures are fresh and crisp, the holidays are right around the corner, delicious seasonal food is on every store shelf, and it's a time for community and celebration, making it a wonderful time of year - no matter what stage of life you are in.
While you might not be going door-to-door in a costume in your golden years, there are still many ideas for Fall fun for seniors to enjoy the lively, communal energy of the season. You could celebrate the changing of the leaves by going on a hike or a small road-trip, enjoy the unofficial season of apple cider, hot chocolate, and pumpkin-flavored foods at a Fall festival, tell your grandkids scary stories from your youth and reminisce about jumping at shadows and eating smore's by fire, enjoy festive foods with your close friends and family over a pot luck themed for the season, or participate in a local Fall bake sale to raise money for a great cause while watching people enjoy your hard work in the kitchen.
There is a large body of research that states that seniors that stay socially engaged as they age are less likely to develop a range of issues related to brain health. Not to mention the considerable benefits to stress levels, and the overall boost to mental health that a sense of community can constitute. The below ideas are ways for seniors to enjoy the fun of the Fall season while also boosting their sense of community:
Participate in a Fall Festival
Local Fall festivals are a great way for seniors to enjoy the season while also enjoying many other benefits - Fall Festivals help seniors maintain a sense of community involvement, while partaking in low impact exercise and plenty of important mental stimulation. Not to mention, they are just plain fun at any age.
Most local festivals are always looking for additional help as volunteers or vendors as well. If you are particularly crafty or great in the kitchen, consider contributing your talent. Even if you don’t necessarily want to become involved as a vendor, there are usually many volunteer opportunities that could include senior members of the community telling “story hours,” sharing their stories of the community in times past with attendees.
Create a gathering to swap scary stories
Today’s seniors grew up during what is arguably the golden-age of spoken-word stories in America. Plus, seniors have lived through many important events in history, making them a rich and accurate source for story-telling. Telling stories is not only a fun way to learn about the past from seniors, but it is also a very good way for seniors to provide mental stimulation for seniors by remembering and recollecting past events from their life, while interacting with others.
A fun and seasonal way to prompt seniors to tell stories from their past is to plan a “scary story” night around Halloween. You could host the gathering at your own home, or at your aging loved one's house, and invite your family and any of your loved one's friends. Feel free to go all-out with a themed party - having Halloween decorations and themed foods, and set up a fake campfire for the group to sit around to share and listen to scary stories. This event is especially fun for seniors and kids alike!
Host a Fall-themed Pot Luck
Pot lucks are a great seasonal activity for seniors because cooking for others can be incredibly therapeutic and often comes along with many other benefits. They are also an excuse for friends and family to get together and enjoy good food and good company.
You could take it a step further this year and create a theme to your pot luck - a Fall themed pot luck could ask that everyone includes something pumpkin into the dish that they make, or that everyone makes the food Halloween decorated or themed. Another idea would be to have a heart healthy, or sugar-free foods theme to have the fun experience of a pot luck without the unwanted inches on the waistband. There are some great healthy recipes included at the bottom of this blog!
Make treats to sell in a Fall Bake Sale
Fall bake sales are an age old American tradition; dating all the way back to 1891. That’s 126 years of community bake sales! There is a reason the institution of the American bake sale has thrived for so long. They are a great way to encourage community, socialize, get active, and most importantly; eat tasty Fall themed confections.
The best part about bake sales is that they work no matter your age. You can coordinate with your neighbors, or your local community groups to plan a bake sale, and before you know it you’ll have a line around the block ready to buy tasty Fall themed treats.
Fun and Healthy Fall Recipes
These recipes are sure to be a hit at any age whether you’re serving a large group at a pot luck, or aiming to be the star of the bake sale. Bonus: Every one of the following recipes is heart healthy and either sugar-free or low sugar! They also are all limited to 3 easy-to-follow steps.
Cold weather means warm drinks, and this spiced coffee recipe is a perfect, healthy way to have a delicious holiday drink.
Step 1: Create the spiced syrup by heating a small saucepan over medium heat. Add ½ cup of sugar, and ½ cup of water. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of allspice, 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon (plus more to taste), and 1 ½ teaspoons of ground ginger. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Step 2: Add spiced syrup to coffee to taste. ¼ of a tablespoon is usually plenty to adequately flavor a single cup of coffee.
Step 3: Enjoy!
Apple pie eggrolls are a perfect solution for those looking for the traditional taste of apple pie without all of the fuss and additional calories. They are also great for parties and pot lucks because they are made in individuals servings!
Step 1: Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until it begins to brown. Add 5 cups of diced and peeled Granny Smith apples, 3 tablespoons of sugar, ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Cook until the apples are softened, add 1 tablespoon of flour and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
Step 2: Place about ½ cup of the apple filling in the center of a single egg roll wrapper. Fold both sides of the wrapper over the filling, then fold the bottom corner and roll up as tightly as possible. Repeat with all of the remaining wrappers.
Step 3: Combine 1 tablespoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and place near oven. Heat oil until shimmering and add rolls, turn frequently until golden brown on all sides. Dredge the hot rolls in the cinnamon-sugar. Let the rolls sit for several minutes and serve.
This dish is so good and rich that people won’t even believe that you made it healthy. Rather than using extremely high sodium canned soup, this recipe calls for making your own creamy sauce substitute; that not only tastes better, it’s much better for you.
Step 1: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1 cup diced onion and 1 cup diced bell pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Add 32-ounce bag of frozen potatoes; cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 8 minutes or until potatoes begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste.
Step 2: Combine 1 ½ cups of low-fat milk and 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat. Stir in 4 ounces of low-fat yogurt and 1 cup of low-fat cheese. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Step 3: Place sugar free cornflakes in a medium bowl; drizzle with butter and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle cornflakes over potato mixture. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until bubbly around the edges and topping is crisp.
If you or your loved one needs help to remain at home, or could use extra assistance over the holidays, we can help. The in home care Tampa caregivers we refer can perform a variety of in-home care services including meal-preparation, help with errands and shopping, live-in care, and respite care. Contact us for a free in-home consultation to discuss care options.