17 Low-Cost & Free Activities Perfect for Older Adults

Don't let a tight budget spoil your retirement fun. Try these low-cost and free activity ideas for older adults instead!

Published December 20, 2023
Elderly women with 3d glasses at the cinema

Thanks to skyrocketing prices and the many financial crises over the past few years, many older adults are living on a tight budget. Don't feel like you have to sacrifice having fun at this stage in your life though. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a good time! And we’ll prove it with these inexpensive or free activity ideas you're sure to love.

1. Give Birding a Try

Yes, we know there's some joke in there about being older and watching birds. But the people who make fun of birding have never heard a bird's sweet song or watched them land on a branch just within reach.

You don't even need binoculars or a journal to document the birds you see with this fun activity. You can just head outside or to the park, pick a good spot to rest, and look to the skies to get started birding.  

2. Press Local Flowers Into Keepsakes

Senior woman pressing rose blossom between book pages

Celebrate your local area by picking wildflowers on your walks about town, on your hikes, or on days in the park. Dry those flowers out and press them into sweet keepsakes or simple craft projects. Not only will you always have a piece of home with you, but it won’t cost a dime to make!

3. Play Card Games With Friends

Whether you're a Five Card Draw kind of person or Go Fish has your heart, there are so many fun card games you can play. If don’t already have one, you can get a deck of cards for pretty cheap at any convenience store nearby.

Quick Tip

Besides cards, there are tons of other game ideas that are not only fun but work your mind. You can try anything from VR games to addictive memory games to stay sharp and have a great time. 

4. Keep a Field Journal

Get in touch with your inner adventurer and document your explorations into the great unknown. Keep a field journal of all the things you see, observations you make, the trails you hike, species you come across, and so on. All you need is a notebook, a pen, and some time on your hands.

Quick Tip

Local nature centers sometimes have eco-explorer programs for adults. These are typically low-cost, and some programs even get involved in collecting samples and helping the environment. 

5. Play Chess in the Park

Senior friends playing chess

If you live in a more metropolitan area, then you might find that your local park has chess or checkerboards set up for anyone to come play. Test your skills against the day's parkgoers or learn how to play from one of the regulars. Not only is it a great challenge to stretch your brain muscles, but also an awesome way to reconnect with your community.

6. Explore Your Genealogy & Create a Family Tree

Want to know more about where you come from? Head to the library and ask them to set you up on whatever genealogy resources they have available. From there, you can start retracing your lineage and discover all sorts of unknown stories that you can pass down.

7. Play With Pets at a Local Animal Shelter

Animal shelters are largely volunteer-run, so they can always do with the extra help. If you're an animal lover, then a great way to get out of the house is to play with the animals at your local shelter. From flickering lasers in the cat room to tossing balls for the dogs outside, there are tons of furry friends to keep you company.

8. Write a Memoir

You’ve still got a lot of life left in you, but there's no time like the present to start looking back on the past and recording your favorite moments from it. We're sure you’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, and what better thing to do with them than write them all down?

9. Watch a Matinee Movie

Senior couple watching 3D movie

Matinees are the best thing to ever happen to the movie theater industry. Not only do they cost less but going to the theater in the daytime (especially during the week) means there are fewer people to fight for seats with. You might even luck out and have the whole theater to yourself!

10. Visit a Museum

Tap into your area’s history by visiting the museums nearby. Most museums have low entry fees, if any at all, and offer a variety of exhibits for you to explore. Check-in with their programmers throughout the year to see what special events they may have planned so you don’t miss out on anything that might interest you.

11. Cultivate an Indoor or Outdoor Garden

Gardening can be such a rewarding labor of love, and there’s a type of gardening for every mobility level. From a windowsill herb garden to a massive sustenance garden in your backyard, there’s something for everyone. Tending to your plants will give you something to look forward to every morning.

Quick Tip

You can cut gardening costs by taking seeds from your food scraps (such as bell pepper or squash seeds) and planting them.

12. Compile Your Homemade Recipes in a Recipe Book

Not everyone is gifted in the kitchen, but if you’ve been blessed with hands made to cook then we encourage you to compile your homemade recipes in your downtime. You don't have to make a massive publication! Some notecards and a scrapbook will do just fine.

13. Start a Fiber Arts Project

Senior woman doing embroidery on sofa with cat

If you're feeling crafty, the fiber arts is where it’s at. All you need are a handful of tools, a pattern, and some free time. Whether it’s crochet, embroidery, knitting, cross stitch, needlepoint, felting, or quilting there’s bound to be something that catches your attention.

Quick Tip

If have a passion for a certain type of craft, you may even consider turning your hobby into extra cash by selling your products as a work-from-home job

14. Play With Finger Paints

You're still young until you're in the grave, so embrace your youth and dip your fingers into some finger paints. Who needs paintbrushes and expensive canvases when you’ve got washable paint and some paper at your disposal?

15. Try Rock Painting

Another quirky craft to try is rock painting. This literally involves grabbing some smooth rocks from outside, taking a paintbrush and some paint, and dabbing on a design. In no time, you’ll be making beautiful mandala rocks with swirling dots of paint in different sizes and shapes.

16. Attend Senior-Specific Community Events

Keep an eye on your parks and rec department and see what's on the calendar. They might host some senior-specific events you'd like to attend. It's not only budget-friendly, but it can be a great way to stay involved in the community and make new friends.

17. Try a Low-Impact Sport 

We can learn new things at any age, and finding a fun way to stay active is a huge plus as we get older. From starting out with pickleball to adding a nightly walk to your routine, there are tons of great sports and movement-based activities to try that are either free or don't cost much to get involved in. These include: 

  • Pole-walking
  • Swimming and water aerobics
  • Disc golf
  • Yoga or tai chi (community centers may offer these for free or at a minimal cost) 
  • Walking soccer

Everyone Deserves to Fill Their Days With Fun Activities

Fun isn't cost-prohibitive, but sometimes you’ve got to get a bit creative. Don't let a tight budget spoil your fun! Give these free and low-cost activities a try instead.

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17 Low-Cost & Free Activities Perfect for Older Adults