Main image courtesy of Love to Know.
When you think of activities that seniors like to engage in while they’re living in a long-term care facility, chances are you imagine bingo. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying this fun game, there are so many more meaningful activities that seniors could take part in! If you’re working in a nursing home community, you want to ensure that your seniors are able to participate in activities as much as possible. In fact, daily socialization and enrichment are an important and vital part of their care plan—just as much as ensuring they get dressed, take their medication, get proper sleep, and enjoy a healthy diet.
But how can your facility expand their list of activities for seniors? That’s exactly why we’ve created this guide in order to help you:
- Understand why meaningful activities are so crucial for seniors
- See what kind of activities can provide enrichment
- Learn how long-term care facilities can start to provide more enriching activities
- Grasp why moving beyond just bingo is so important for senior care
If you need additional training on how to create more meaningful activities for seniors, consider the online classes at Mariposa Training that include:
- Montessori Based Activity Programs and Services
- Culture Change: Understanding the Quality of Life Domains
- Meaningful Engagement: Creating Resident Centered Activity Programs
Why Are Meaningful Activities Vital to Seniors?
It is important to include enriching experiences to seniors in long-term care
Daily activities that seniors are interested in is crucial to keeping them active and engaged. Image courtesy of Daily Caring.
Human beings love to be engaged and stimulated, and throughout our lives we participate in a variety of activities to do so—whether that’s a physical activity like a sport, or a mental one such as learning a new language. When our brain continues to learn, we find that people tend to stay healthier. As people reach their senior years, they still want to keep learning and enjoy enriching experiences just like they did in the past. However as we age, it becomes harder to keep up with the physical activities we once enjoyed, making it more important than ever to set aside the time to stay mentally and socially engaged.
People as a whole (including seniors) are happier when they’re finding meaningful activities to do daily that provide enrichment to their lives. This is especially true for our older population in long-term care facilities. If seniors do not have appropriate engagement, it can lead to a variety of health and mental conditions such as:
All of these issues can lead to premature hospitalization or death. This is why it’s important for healthcare workers and nursing home administration to ensure that the kind of care they’re providing to seniors goes beyond just ensuring they’re dressed, bathed, and eating properly. Moving to a care plan that includes enriching activities provides a more sustainable approach that is focused on the entire wellbeing of the resident.
When residents are engaged in meaningful activities, they not only tend to stay healthier and avoid some of the conditions listed above, but they enjoy the benefits of daily enrichment like:
- Better physical health
- Increased stamina
- Positive outlook
- Better mood
- Improved concentration
Although studies have proven that exercise, mental stimulation, and social activities can improve the wellbeing and everyday functions of seniors in long-term care, many residents of these facilities are under-engaged or spend most of their time alone. This lack of social interaction causes a progressive decline in their ability to perform their activities of daily living, and can cause an increase in the chance that they’ll develop a condition such as osteoporosis, hypertension, or depression.
It’s vital for nursing home communities to provide daily meaningful activities for seniors that aren’t just a distraction or diversion, but that actively provide stimulation and engagement. In fact, there are many of these kinds of projects that facilities can easily incorporate into their daily routines to the benefit of residents.
What Kind of Activities Provide Enrichment for Seniors?
In order to engage seniors in meaningful activities, make sure to include physical, mental, and social options
By providing a variety of meaningful activities for seniors, you are providing them with the highest quality care. Image courtesy of Assisted Hands Home Care.
Now that we know that meaningful activities are vital to maintaining the health of seniors, it’s time to go over some enriching options to make available to seniors. Because we’re focusing on the entire wellbeing of senior residents, we’ve broken up the activities into categories:
- Social activities
- Physical activities
- Mental activities
- Activities for those with dementia or limited mobility
Social activities for seniors
It is very important for seniors in a long-term care community to feel that they are still involved with society—whether that’s the community of the facility with their peers and caregivers, their friends and family, or society as a whole. Maintaining healthy relationships with others helps seniors continue to live happy lives, and prevents them from falling into depression, loneliness, and even developing an increased risk of dementia. Activities with a social focus for seniors include:
There are all kinds of games that seniors can enjoy with a group setting, and it doesn’t have to be limited to bingo! While bingo is a great way to gather everyone together to participate in an activity, there are many under-utilized games that can also be added to the schedule. What about putting together Yahtzee, Monopoly, Connect Four, or even Jenga for a change of pace? All of these games require more than one person and are not only a lot of fun, but they build rapport and strengthen social connections amongst seniors.
Card games and checkers are also excellent ways to bring more social activities to seniors. There are all kinds of card games, and if some of the seniors don’t know the games, others can instruct them!
Nothing is more exciting than getting visitors to long-term care facilities. While there are seniors who have regular visitors, there are also many who do not. Teaming up with local schools is a great way to have children visit senior care facilities and brighten up the mood of everyone there. Another great way to increase socialization is to see if there are any pet foundations such as The Pets on Wheels Program that use trained, friendly dogs to visit seniors in nursing home communities. Children and pets are always a good way to increase smiles and boost the mood of seniors who are looking for social engagement.
Having a movie night or a music session is another way to keep things social. Music is proven to help increase feelings of happiness and reduce stress, whether it’s by listening to it or trying to play a musical instrument. You could even offer to play a movie/TV show and then do a related hobby or have a discussion about it afterwards. If your movie takes place in Paris for example, you could pair it with trying the seniors’ hand at learning a few French words, or trying to cook some French food.
Seniors, just like everyone else, want to feel like they are contributing and that their input is appreciated. If it’s possible, getting them involved in charity work can be extremely rewarding. If there are organizations that need mentors, seniors have lots of advice and stories to tell! Perhaps there’s a project that seniors could be involved in that uses their skills, such as knitting or crocheting, or even assembling care packages for service members overseas. Everyone, including seniors, want to make contributions and have a sense of purpose, and charity work could be just the social activity that helps.
Physical activity is crucial for people of all ages to stay fit, keep their heart healthy, and maintain a good weight. It is especially important for seniors to maintain physical movement as they age so they can keep their mobility, maintain balance to prevent falls, and keep their cardiovascular system healthy. Depending on their mobility, you can engage in all kinds of fun, meaningful physical activities.
Yoga is a great way to help seniors maintain their strength and flexibility in a low impact way. The stretching involved helps keep their limbs moving and the breathwork helps keep their lungs and heart in shape. The mental and physical benefits of yoga are available even for those seniors with limited mobility, since many of the stretches and postures can be modified into seated chair yoga. Taught as a class, this also has the social benefits of bringing a group of seniors together to work on their fitness.
Gardening is another great way to not only get seniors moving, but to get the feeling of satisfaction from watching the garden grow. A local community garden is a great way for seniors to plant healthy foods and herbs that they can use in their daily meals. For those residents that enjoyed gardening in their homes, it can be a great opportunity to put their skills to use for the benefit of the community.
Spending time outdoors
Sometimes it’s just nice to change up the scenery and go outdoors. If some seniors are very limited in their mobility, just being able to get outside to sit is a nice change of pace. The peacefulness of going for a walk or sitting outside does a lot of good for the mental and physical health of residents.
Mental stimulation is key to keeping seniors feeling their best. Along with physical exercise and social interaction, it is essential to their overall care.
Both regular jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles are an amazing way to keep seniors thinking, and you can do either of these activities alone or in a group. Reading and learning new things is also essential to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Even bingo is a great way to keep seniors engaged and ensure they’re getting some mental stimulation in their day, and mental stimulation is key to slowing or delaying the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
If it is safe for seniors, dancing is not only a great physical activity, but it can also provide mental stimulation as well. Learning new dance steps keeps the brain active and improves their overall quality of life. Music, whether it is listened to, danced to, or played on an instrument, is a great way to not only bring seniors together, but it also boosts their mental activity and memory skills.
Drawing and painting
Creating something on a canvas or even just a piece of paper is a fantastic way to keep seniors enriched and engaged. It doesn’t matter if they know how to paint or not, creating a piece that allows them to express themselves and use new tools (paint brushes, crayons, colored pencils, etc.) provides a lot of mental stimulation.
Activities for those with dementia or limited mobility
If there are seniors with limited mobility, yoga, doing leg exercises, or even dancing to music from their wheelchair is a great way to modify meaningful physical activities. For residents with dementia, you could also modify many of these meaningful activities to suit their needs. In addition, consider activities such as going through/organizing a jewelry box, putting together color swatches, or sorting silverware helps dementia residents feel more involved and connected to their surroundings.
How Can Long-Term Care Facilities Include More Meaningful Activities for Seniors?
What can senior living facilities do to encourage more enrichment?
When you offer activities that are of interest to seniors and match their level of functionality, you’re creating an enriching experience. Image courtesy of CapTel.
Although bingo does provide hand-eye coordination and is a good way to encourage socializing and fun, there are many more activities that seniors can do in long-term care facilities. The activities we mentioned above are a great starting point for senior care administrators, but the activities that take into account the interests, the past and present lives of residents, their former life roles—which are to their functionality—are the ones that are most meaningful. Any of the physical, social, and mental activities can be adapted according to a senior’s functionality, as long as they’re meeting their needs and are not designed to be outcome-oriented. The kinds of activities that rely on an outcome lead to boredom, depression, and behavior disturbances among residents.
As a long-term care facility, creating a space for meaningful activities is not just the job of the activity director, everyone should be aware and involved, which makes it easier to know the likes, interests, and functionality of the residents. Moving beyond bingo ensures that you’re not just entertaining seniors, but you’re offering them activities that they’re interested in, and can participate in, no matter what their functionality level is.
For additional information, Mariposa Training offers a variety of courses to help build more meaningful activities for senior residents.