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Better than bingo: Meaningful activities for long-term care residents

Better than bingo: Meaningful activities for long-term care residents

Unfortunately, in movies and pop culture today, the familiar image of elderly residents playing bingo has become synonymous with long-term care facilities. This is not to say that bingo is detrimental for residents, as the Family Physicians Group recently reported that numerous studies show that bingo helps support cognitive, physical and social wellbeing in seniors. Rather, as Steve Moran wrote for the Senior Housing Forum, long-term care facilities need to move beyond simple entertainment and create programs that substantially encourage their seniors to learn, create and grow on a daily basis.

Why should long-term care providers move beyond bingo?
Frequently in many long-term care settings, older residents spend large amounts of their time alone or unengaged. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that despite advances in science that heavily promote the benefits of social and physical activity for seniors, these residents still tend to spend around 65 percent of their time alone in their rooms. As a result of this inaction, these residents tend to experience a "progressive decline in everyday function, defined as the ability to adequately perform cognitively complex tasks," such as getting out of chairs or dialing on a mobile device.

"Residents spend around 65 percent of their time alone."

Some of these activities could include fitness lessons taught by volunteers in the community, such as group yoga or tai chi, or monthly dances where residents can curate the music or offer suggestions for themes and decorations. Furthermore, just because residents may not be able to hike a mile or two, this doesn't mean that they should be excluded from outdoor activities. Holding an outdoor picnic or nature walk may be exhilarating for residents who find fulfillment from simply being in nature. 

The researchers concluded that residents who walked regularly improved their mobility, while those who participated in social activities saw better nighttime sleep patterns. Those undergoing resistance training also improved their muscle strength. While beneficial, the researchers did acknowledge that resource constraints, such as untrained staff members or high costs, can impede the vast availability of supervised, coordinated activities in facilities across the country. However, there are cost-effective ways providers can implement programs that keep their residents active.

Instead of just attending meals, residents could activity participate in maintaining a community vegetable garden, or hold talks for their peers about their interest areas or even open discussions to talk about relevant issues in the world. Moving beyond bingo is more than just replacing it with another activity, it is about broadening residents' horizons and fully supporting their social, cognitive and physical needs.

"Start moving beyond bingo today!"

How can long-term care providers move beyond bingo?
Though bingo can promote better hand-eye coordination, boost cognitive ability, increase social activity and be generally fun, health care providers can do more to offer the highest quality of care for their residents. Moran wrote that he imagines a future in long-term care, where local school children come to have residents tutor them or help them read. He also would love to see long-term care facilities offer art studios, computer classrooms, wood-workshops and other skills-building activities. 

Overall, health care providers don't have to completely end their bingo nights, but may want to explore new ways they can reach their residents and offer meaningful activities that don't just entertain them, but which also support their general wellbeing. Start moving beyond bingo today! For more information, contact Mariposa Training (www.mariposatraining.com) to learn more about our extensive range of courses that will help you to enhance both your quality of care and the quality of life of your residents.

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