Seniors in assisted living want to stay connected to their interests and passions. Families want to know that mom or dad is in a good community. Activity directors want fresh, worthwhile ideas that will generate participation and enthusiasm.
Meaningful activities can combat against depression, a common risk in long-term, senior living. Physical activities are hugely important, but the importance of cognitive exercises and social interaction cannot be downplayed.
The problem is that most assisted living communities have a very small activities budget. So, when resources and abilities are tight, make sure your activities calendar is packed with energetic and meaningful activities that will generate the most participation and greatest impact.
We’ve put together a quick list of some of our favorite assisted living activities that can lead to purposeful discussions and meaningful interactions.
Life Story Workshops
Workshops that encourage discussing and writing life stories provide the opportunity for seniors to preserve their memories and leave their legacies. Seniors will enjoy sharing happy memories and the “good ole’ days”, but even more, talking about difficult memories can turn into a positive experience and contribute to a stronger community. There are numerous clinical studies that show that sharing life stories can be therapeutic for seniors suffering from depression.
Organize a group sharing session with a weekly theme, such as “Christmas Family Traditions”, “Favorite Vacations”, or “Childhood Memories”. Check out these prompts for intriguing questions and themes that you can use for inspiration.
Small groups work best with this activity so that an intimate environment is created and trust can be built. However, if resources and staff are limited, have seniors with similar interests partner with one another, or showcase a select few residents each week, and give them the floor to speak.
Remember to keep the sessions casual so that the senior feels relaxed, but structure is key in ensuring a smooth activity and the most meaningful interactions.
Intergenerational programs facilitate visits from younger visitors to interact with senior residents. True intergenerational programs are, as Nancy Henkin of Temple University says, “not nice, but necessary.” This is an opportunity to create meaningful and fun interactions. The residents have the opportunity to be surrogate grandparents to local youngsters while children are able to learn from their elders.
According to Senior Lifestyle, seniors who regularly volunteer with children burn 20% more calories per week, experienced fewer falls, were less reliant on canes, and performed better on memory tests than their peers.
Depending the cognitive and mobility levels of your community, arts and crafts, reading activities, puzzles and games, or even lunch dates are just a few of the intergenerational activity possibilities. This is also an opportunity for youth to teach basic computer usage, bringing residents closer to their families through email, Skype, sending greeting cards and so much more.
Do you remember looking forward to “Show-and-Tell” day in your elementary school class? Now, after years and years of collecting keepsakes and memories, show-and-tell can be an opportunity for rich stories to emerge from your residents and for memories to resurface that haven’t been thought about for years.
Seniors are encouraged to choose an important belonging and share the story behind it to the group. Whether this is an old photograph, family heirloom, or a grandchild’s drawing, seniors have a chance to share something meaningful about their past. The seniors feel celebrated and honored.
Celebrate Their Heritage
Celebrating the tangible and intangible aspects of your resident’s culture and ethnicity can add to the uniqueness of the seniors and strengthen the community as a whole. Activities that promote greater understanding of your differences while encouraging a conversation will help you learn about your community.
In addition to celebrating diverse holidays and serving ethnic foods, your community can honor the intangible aspects that have helped shape the seniors you serve today. This can be done through cultural speakers, music, cooking and art classes, or story sharing.
Service to others is one of the most intrinsically fulfilling opportunities you can provide for your residents. Besides the innate reward of helping others, volunteering promotes good physical and mental health and helps seniors pursue their passions in retirement.
While they may not be able to physically lend a helping hand, they can do good within the walls of the community by making blankets for a charity, writing cards for a children’s hospital, packaging or sorting care boxes, and more. Immobility does not eliminate volunteering opportunities. Get creative, partner with a local charity, and bring in outside volunteers. In return, not only will your seniors feel good about themselves, you’ll be fostering a culture of compassion – not just for the residents, but for the local community and beyond.
TSOLife (The Story of Life) focuses on preserving legacy and passing down life stories for future generations. Our mission is that no grandchild should have to wonder what their grandparent was like. Our unique solutions create the most personalized way to pass down personal stories that families will share and cherish for generations.