Taking care of our aging population is about more than just three square meals a day and providing a clean place to sleep. The bare essentials will keep human beings alive, but they don’t help them live, and when it comes to our parents and grandparents, that’s a fact younger generations all too often tend to forget. Residents in senior living facilities need all the interaction and stimulation of their younger, more mobile counterparts – and it doesn’t have to be all about cards and knitting circles, either. Here are some new ideas designed to engage and entertain the people who deserve our attention and respect the most.
A little exercise is good for the mind as well as the body, and it also gives residents the opportunity to work up a sweat while socializing a bit. There are traditional options like a walking club or low-impact aerobics, but also consider technology-driven activities like Wii Fit or Wii Sports. The ability to bowl or play tennis in a controlled environment – and without the weighty accessories – is enough to thrill anyone, regardless of age. And for the simple cost of a bit of software, the class schedule can be updated and rotated on a regular basis. Balance-building programs that include tai chi or yoga are also a good bet, and helpful in maintaining mobility.
Give residents with a green thumb space to plant herbs, vegetables, flowers, and other produce. Moving from a single-family house into a senior living facility can come with feelings of lost autonomy, but having an outdoor space to nurture and a few crops to cultivate can go a long way towards replicating a bit of that sense of ownership. Plus, the harvest can be used in culinary classes or in the facility’s kitchen to offset food costs and demonstrate the benefits of farm-to-table cooking.
The biggest mistake a residential facility can make is forgetting that the inhabitants are, in fact, individuals, each with their own skills and areas of expertise. One great way to showcase those talents is by having residents volunteer to lead a workshop, discussion group, sing-song, or other type of class that not only demonstrates their abilities but also allows others to learn and participate. After all, few things feel quite as good as being able to put your skill set to work.
Okay, this isn’t such a new idea, but the type of bingo is what’s important here. Ditch the tired letter-number combos and give each bingo night a cool, timely theme. Put together cards that reflect the upcoming holiday or another seasonal motif, or bring in an element of nostalgia by playing sound clips from classic artists that correspond to song titles on the boards.
Smart phones and social media are great ways to stay connected, but only if you know how to use them. Bring in high school or college students looking for volunteer opportunities and have them coach seniors on basic internet principals, web lingo, how to send and receive emails, etc. It’s yet another opportunity for interaction – and one that benefits parties on both sides, to boot – and it gives residents a way to keep in contact with extended family all over the world.