Keeping Yourself Busy: A Guide To Wellbeing Ideas For The Over 70s During Self Isolation (Updated)

Cute senior old woman making a heart shape with her hands and fingers

As at 26th March, 2020

As enforced self isolation for the over 70s continues, it becomes ever more important to keep busy, active and healthy at home, if you are feeling well.  

These are unprecedented events and our wellbeing (both emotionally and physically) is paramount as we come to terms with what is unfolding.

Day-to-day, we at ElWell look at ways that older adults can keep living comfortably at home. We’ve taken this knowledge and compiled a guide of wellbeing ideas to help people keep busy and safe during self-isolation. It’s split into three sections: staying connected, culture & learning and hobbies.

Whether you’re reading this for yourself, or for someone you love to get some ideas to support them, we hope that you find it useful. And ultimately we hope that you are keeping well and safe.

We’ll keep updating this with new information, as and when we hear about it over the coming weeks and months. The date at the top will show when it was last updated in case you keep checking back.

Staying Connected

According to research from the British Medical Journal, older people enjoy healthier lives if they maintain social bonds.

Whilst you might not be able to physically see and touch your loved ones currently, technology means you can still feel close to them. Some ideas to use tech (to varying degrees of complexity) to stay in touch are below.

Virtual Book Club

Book clubs take place every day across the whole country. Not just for book worms, they’re a source of social interaction and great friendships form over these stories. You may not be able to meet and discuss in person, but you could try a virtual group discussion over FaceTime.

Group FaceTime allows up to 32 people to join, details on how to do this can be found here. Alternatively if you have Skype, you can have up to ten people on a call.

Book in a slot, grab a cup of tea and the book and get chatting.

If you aren’t able to attempt video calls, you could always discuss the book and have a natter over email.

If you’re keen to join a book club, we like the Good Housekeeping Book Club which is online (you need access to Facebook to take part though).

There’s also the Willoughby Book Club which delivers a package of books to the person who orders and the recipient. So you could make a book club with your daughter, both read the book and get together over the phone to discuss it.

Online pub quiz

You might not be able to go out, but technology means you can still connect with friends and family. Nominate someone to be the quiz master and host an online pub quiz, all connecting for free via Zoom (up to 100 people can join for free) or FaceTime (up to eight people can join).

Video conferencing like this can be noisy, but having a pub quiz environment, where there is one person asking the questions and the rest of you writing down the answers means it should be manageable.

For pub quiz questions, check out this site – they have hundreds of quizzes to choose from!

Now, what will your pub quiz name be? We quite like ‘social quiz-tancing’!

Group Friends Video Chat Connection Concept

Family Tree

How much do your kids know about your parents, grandparents and extended family? Use the time to write down stories, and email them round or discuss over the phone. We’re sure you will unearth some fantastic stories and even see some similarities between generations appear.

You could also go one step further and create your family tree. If you’re not sure where to start, this is a good article to read. And could help you start to find the facts – there’s currently 14 days free.

If one of your grandchildren is creative, they could even use some of their home schooling time to design a bespoke version for you all.

The Great Family Cook Off

Eating well as we get older supports healthy ageing, and as we spend time inside it’s more important than ever to nourish our bodies from the inside.

You might not be able to sit down and eat together, but you can still make it a family interaction that encourages you to eat well. Agree on a recipe (maybe you want to teach them one of your classics?), and your family can deliver the ingredients. Then, using FaceTime to communicate, get cooking. Who’s will come out best?! Good luck though,  the taste test results might divide the family!

Photo Books

Use the time to go through all the old family photos. Sort through and put some order into them – can you categorise them in date order, by event, write down the names and date on the back for posterity?

Vintage background with a frame of old postcards, old family photos and old notebooks

If you have access to a scanner, it could even be an idea to create a photo book online. We like SnapFish and PhotoBox but there are lots of options available. Or, leave them outside your door for your family to pick up and they can create it for you (and a copy for them too!).

Culture & Learning

Just because you can’t go out doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with what to culturally consume.

National Theatre At Home

Broadcast on YouTube every Thursday at 7pm from April 2, 2020. Each show is then available to stream on their YouTube channel for a week. It kicks off with James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors and continues with Sally Cookson’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Keep your eyes peeled for more plays to be announced soon! is known as the Netflix of arts and culture streaming, allowing you to watch performances of dance, opera and theatre. Including The Royal Shakespeare Club, Donmar Warehouse, Glyndebourne and more. There’s currently a 30-day free offer on (March 2020) so go, go, go!

The Show Must Go Online

This was started on March 19th by Robert Myles as a response to anyone not being able to go to the theatre. It brings actors and audiences together on YouTube, as the actors read a weekly Shakespeare play, in the order written.

To watch the readings (live streamed or a repeat), go to:

Gareth Malone Great British Home Chorus

Choirmaster Gareth Malone is rallying community spirit and encouraging isolated people young and old to offer their voices or instrument playing ability for a virtual choir. Register, and they will send you an email with next steps on music and timings.

We just got our first email from them. It says that this week (w/c 23 March) they will be online guiding people through warm-ups and teaching some songs, as well as explaining how the Great British Home Chorus will work. It’s not too late to sign up, the more the merrier.

Melbourne Symphone Orchestra

Travel to Melbourne, Australia from your computer and live stream performances from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra from its YouTube channel for free. Their aim is to keep the music going. You can still watch the performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and stay tuned for other performances too.

If you have Instagram (or want to join – just download the app from the App Store on your phone / tablet or sign up via your desktop computer), follow @theatrewithouttheater. The account is posting productions that were cut short to full shows.

Podcasts and Audio Books

These are a great way to transport you to another place, and you don’t have to worry about straining your eyes.

Some podcasts we recommend are Tunnel 29, about escape from East Berlin, and In Our Time which covers philosophy, religion, history, science and more (both are from BBC Radio 4). If you’re feeling anxious we also recommend Owning It by Caroline Foran. Rad more on that here. For audio books, check out Audible which currently has 30 days for free.

Virtual Galleries

Google Arts and Culture has access to collections that have been virtually assembled from 2,500 museums across the world.

Including the British Museum, MOMA in New York and the Musee D’Orsay, they allow you to view art you wouldn’t normally get the chance to see. You can also see monuments including the Taj Mahal. Depending on the museum, there could be written commentary or a virtual tour of the collection. Access it via your computer here.

We also like the app Armchair Gallery which brings the gallery to you at home. Museums are UK based and include the Pitt Rivers Museum, The Lowry and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. You can download it on your iPad.


Staying Connected To Animals

Pandas eating and playing together

Escape from reality and live stream animals from zoos across the world.

Visit Dublin Zoo’s website and tune in to the African Savanna which is home to giraffes, rhinos, ostrich and zebras.

Atlanta Zoo has a Panda Cam or virtually escape down under with the Koala Cam at San Diego zoo. They also have live penguin, ape, elephant and even polar bear cams.


Color thread for knitting, knitted scarf, knitting needles on a dark wooden background. Copy space. Knitting concept

If you love to knit, you can use your hobby for good and knit garments for premature babies.

The charity Bliss has free patterns to download for hats, toys and clothes which you can find here: (although they would appreciate a donation).

Please though, before you get started, check with your local neonatal unit about what items they need so they’re able to take your kind contribution.


Relax with a puzzle and boost your memory at the same time. From free online games that you can play solo or with someone, to board games, there’s a real range out there.

We’ve written about the best indoor games to play solo or with people here. Click on the link and take a read there.

Make Cards And Write Letters

We all love to receive something through the post. Make cards (using old photos?) and send them to your grandchildren, friends and family.

Magnetic Dart Board

Relieve stress and either play solo or get some healthy competition going with a magnetic dart board. Playing darts can also help improve hand eye co-ordination. A lightweight magnetic dartboard won’t ruin walls and can help relieve stress. You can order one online here.

Lawn Bowls & Skittles

Stay active if you have a garden and try lawn bowls (boules) or skittles on the patio. They are low impact games which can be played solo or against someone.


We know that self isolation will be a trying time, but together apart we can get through it. Keeping busy with new or old activities will help the time to pass.

ElWell is here to help you during this time. Our focus has always been helping people stay active and engaged as they get older, and now this is more important than ever.

We’ve got other articles about exercise and staying active which may be useful on the Self Isolation section of our website. And we even offer virtual one-to-one physiotherapy sessions to help with movement and balance during this time.

Comment below / email and tell us what you want us to cover! We’d love to hear from you.

Good luck, we’re thinking of you.


How can over 70s keep busy during self isolation?

If you’re feeling well, then keeping yourself busy will be key to getting through self isolation. We’ve rounded up the best ways to stay connected to family, culture, and hobbies.

How can you keep in touch with family during self isolation?

Not seeing loved ones during self isolation is difficult, but technological advances mean there are plenty of ways to still connect. You could all cook the same recipe and eat it “together”, tell them stories of when you were younger or make photo books. We have plenty of ideas on our blog.

4 thoughts on “Keeping Yourself Busy: A Guide To Wellbeing Ideas For The Over 70s During Self Isolation”

  1. Dear Jessica,
    Thank you for this. It is very helpful. I would like to say how much l and all of us enjoyed your talk at Otmoor WI. Was it only last week. Seems like a different world now! I enjoyed a brief chat with you afterwards. So sorrry that your wedding plans will have been disrupted. But I wish you every happiness in the future.
    Glenys (self isolating because 81, but greatly helped by border collie Woody!)

    1. Jessica Silver

      Dear Glenys, thank you for your comment. I remember meeting you well – so pleased you all enjoyed the talk on staying independent at home. I hope you’re doing well during this troubling time.

  2. Pingback: Looking After Your Mental Wellbeing - ElWell - Helping you look after your parents as they get older

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