20 Senior-friendly Activities to Enjoy at Assisted Living Facilities
Living full-time in a senior nursing home or assisted living care facility can be rather dull for some people as there is a set of routines and schedules one must follow strictly. So, it’s even more necessary to break out from stereotypical activities like watching programmed TV or talking about the same mundane day-to-day affairs. Here are 20 unique activity ideas for seniors to stay engaged at nursing homes and enjoy their retirement life.
Reading promises various health benefits for seniors, including stress reduction, better sleep, and improved memory. It also delays the onset of health conditions such as dementia. If you are an avid reader, joining a book club will allow you to try new genres and break out of a monotonous routine; you can also seek book suggestions from fellow seniors. You can also continue reading without it becoming a daily task, as fellow book club members can help set targets and completion goals—nothing like a little friendly competition to improve your reading experience. Book clubs are also a beautiful place for lively discussions featuring the book of the week or month. Talking about your favorite books makes it even more fun to pursue and complete them. And the best part is book clubs help introduce an element of social engagement to keep older adults well-occupied, among other activities in nursing homes.
Board games are a crowd favorite and one of the top featured activities for nursing home residents. Many seniors had already cracked the code on creating a lively, engaging gaming experience with simple board games long before the current favorites like TV console games and PC games became the trend. Board games are the perfect social icebreakers with plenty of scope for healthy conversation. The atmosphere also becomes lively with engaging banter, and the learning curve for trying new games is not so challenging. So, consider joining a board game club or creating your own little group for avid gamers. Bingo, Scrabble, Chess, Yahtzee, Boggle, Monopoly, Checkers, Backgammon, Dominoes, Mahjong, and Cards remain popular crowd favorites among other socially engaging activities for nursing home seniors.
Birthday parties are excellent occasions for seniors to escape the boredom of routine and fight loneliness. From decorating the place to ordering or even baking a birthday cake, seniors can enthusiastically participate in such events. Celebrating your birthday with the right group of people at the right place will certainly lift your and everyone else’s spirits. And who doesn’t love cake? No matter how old you get, some things remain a favorite. Birthdays are also an excellent opportunity to reunite with family members and friends who stay far and don’t get to visit often. It also allows other residents to express their affection and admiration for you.
Gardening is one of the most therapeutic activities in a nursing home that seniors can actively follow. It promises just the right amount of physical exertion minus any unwanted strain and gives older adults an opportunity to connect with nature. For individuals who spent most of their life in an urban setting, connecting with nature and enjoying this laid-back yet exciting activity will be a relaxing experience. Gardening also boasts several physical and cognitive benefits for older adults. It’s a low-intensity exercise routine where you can tend to the plants without exerting too much and keep your blood pressure in check. Simple gardening tasks like pruning, trimming, and watering help improve cognitive function, thereby improving hand-eye coordination, reasoning, and analytical thinking. Moreover, it’s one of the better outdoor group activities at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. You’ll enjoy interacting with fellow seniors and catching up on the day’s latest updates while tending to the garden.
Walking and hiking clubs
After a certain age, most seniors face challenges, including mobility issues. It is where exercise groups can help keep you motivated and provide an exciting opportunity to strengthen your core muscles and joints.
You might come across a fellow senior who shares your passion for morning walks or hiking. These activities are more fun when done in groups, as fellow hikers will motivate you to achieve your goals. Good exercise also helps the body release endorphins (feel-good hormones) that keep your mood in check and boost happiness. Conclusive research has assessed the multiple benefits of walking solo against walking or hiking with a group, where the latter is a much-preferred activity among seniors.
Seniors from all walks of life will have much to share about the times they’ve lived and the moments they enjoyed. You’ve probably heard this phrase, ‘back in the good old days,’ used often. Well, why not share your good experiences back in the day with others? You can suggest themed storytelling nights once or twice a week to be added to the schedule. Seniors can share a lifetime of their experience with stories about life-changing events like war, displacement, and relocation, starting from nothing and building a life. These stories even carry valuable life lessons that the younger generation can benefit from today. Every senior has a story to tell, and it’s an excellent opportunity to connect with the other residents at the nursing home. Furthermore, it helps improve and strengthen memory for seniors.
Cooking is an activity that most people enjoy, irrespective of age. For seniors, nothing is more satisfying than preparing a meal with their own hands and relishing the taste of their efforts. Organizing a cooking class once or twice a week helps seniors stay engaged with simple recipes. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it will be exciting once you participate. In fact, many senior homes and assisted living facilities offer these benefits exclusively as part of their recreation program. Cooking with fellow residents and bonding over recipes is also a great way to socialize. You can learn a thing or two about new styles of cooking, methods of preparation and explore some unique ingredients with unique cuisines. Furthermore, you can even participate in a bake sale or food fair organized by the nursing home to promote such activities.
Exercising alone can seem boring because you often tend to lose motivation and hence don’t develop the strength of mind to pursue physical activities in the long run. However, the result is different when you work out with a group of people. Even in gyms, young people love to exercise with their friends or try to motivate each other for continued workouts. So why not befriend a fellow resident and find some exercises that are both easily doable and enjoyable at the same time? Most seniors are unaware of a separate form of calisthenics (strength training exercises that rely only on body weight) that has been tailored to their requirements. Such exercises help tone the body and boost muscle and core joint strength.
Arts and crafts activities
Boredom is a significant aspect associated with life at a nursing home. Despite engaging in physical and cognitively stimulating activities, you’ll still have time on your hand and practically nothing more to do at some point. The solution here is to enjoy something more stimulating, like arts and crafts. With such activities, you’ll spend a couple of hours using various materials to make a decorative item from scratch. For example, making a collage, learning to cross stitch, learning to sketch or paint, making jewelry, trying origami, pottery, or even woodworking are activities that involve using your physical and mental skills. In fact, art is regarded as a person’s true reflection expressed in many ways using colors and different types of materials.
Tailgating is one of the favorite activities for older adults as it gives everyone an opportunity to enjoy some impromptu BBQ party wherever the mood strikes. And what could be better than organizing a tailgating event in the parking lot of the senior care center? Seniors who own a pickup can host a BBQ party at the back of their vehicles to cook brisket, hot dogs, hamburgers, and grilled veggies. It can be an entertaining thing to do on a Saturday afternoon when the weather is also perfect. If you are a sports fan, then tailgating parties are the perfect opportunity to set up a big screen and projector for watching sports that you and your fellow residents enjoy. The event coordinator at the nursing home facility can organize these gatherings for anyone who wishes to participate.
Pet interaction days
Pets provide therapeutic relief where treatments and lifestyle changes fall short. Their presence is a soothing remedy that pet lovers will vouch for without a doubt. So, it’s an excellent idea to organize a pet day at the assisted living center where trained dogs and cats can visit with proper supervision and spend a day with seniors. Petting and holding animals helps lower cortisol levels in the body and fight stress. The warm and loving cuddles provide quite a therapeutic effect on the mind and body. Even if you are not a pet lover, you won’t be able to resist the furry friends running across communal areas and yards. It’s an excellent social experience that encourages interaction amongst other residents as well as for those seeking good company. There are even many pet-friendly assisted living facilities and senior homes that allow seniors to live with their dogs and cats full-time.
Isolation and loneliness that happen during retirement in an assisted living facility can lead to various health concerns. A day of complete relaxation can be the best antidote to this. Spa treatments for the mind and body are therapeutic and beneficial in more ways than you can imagine. A massage with essential oils or soaking in a nice hot bath with organic effervescence helps the body destress. Even getting a new haircut and some pampering with manicures and pedicures are simple spa day suggestions you can try out. Humans are social animals, and spa days provide yet another realistic opportunity to connect with like-minded seniors while enjoying a relaxing activity. Premium assisted living facilities and healthcare providers focus on these self-care activities for the elderly in nursing homes as part of the treatment and recovery program.
Attending a music show
When was the last time you attended your favorite concert or a sponsored tour of your band? If the answer is long back, then attending a live concert will help lower your cortisol levels and, in turn, reduce stress. A live performance is more exhilarating than simply tuning into Spotify or the local radio station for hours. Music is therapeutic, as it promotes a relaxing vibe and even creates moments of nostalgia when you listen to your favorite artist or genre of music performed after ages. You can also ask the event coordinators for nursing home activities to invite local performers to do a live show at the care home. Many musicians and performers actively volunteer and perform for free at assisted living care facilities and nursing homes. If the residents are up for it, a trip can also be organized for attending concerts and musical events in the local charter of the community. You can also suggest the event coordinator to invite local bands or groups for recitals for seniors who cannot leave the care home.
Today, dancing has evolved from the classic art form that seniors may be familiar with. Tap dancing, salsa, ballroom dancing, and even swinging feature some of the coolest vintage styles that were popular in the 60s and 70s. A dance class or weekend dance workshop is an excellent opportunity for the senior residents to reminisce in the nostalgia of their beloved art forms. In fact, dancing is a popular fitness activity for nursing home residents. You can ask around and generate new interest by spreading the word about these interactive dance workouts. A fellow resident or two can help you get the ball rolling for the event coordinator and managers to consider your idea seriously. Once more participants join, the nursing home facility can make it an official activity part of the schedule.
When was the last time you got a chance to display your hidden talents? Perhaps you have got exquisite singing talents that you are unaware of, or you can dance better than young adults. You may even have talents playing certain musical instruments, which deserve to be showcased before an audience. However, many seniors shy away from exhibiting their hidden talents due to stage fright or fear of being judged. Organizing a talent hunt in assisted living care facilities is one of the more promising ways to provide a safe haven for residents to display their talent. The facility can provide all the necessary equipment rented out for a day and set up a stage. You can even pair up with other seniors who share your passion for playing an instrument, dancing, acting, or even unique talents like magic acts or mind reading. Talent hunts are the best way to create a lively, engaging atmosphere for seniors to step up and participate in activities as a community.
Singing your heart out is another excellent social activity that can garner some fans for you at the assisted living facility. Karaoke has been a long-standing tradition when it comes to engaging in social activities for residents in nursing homes. You don’t have to be a soprano to sing your favorite songs. The entire point of singing karaoke is to have fun while reminiscing about the favorite memory attached to that song. Participants with excellent voices can be really entertaining to listen to and even sing the chorus with. You can split into teams, sing duets, perform solo, and plan knockout tournaments with multiple rounds. Suggest a karaoke night to the facilities manager so all the necessary equipment and sound programming can be done well in advance. Seniors who are tech savvy can even practice their favorite songs on popular apps like Smule Karaoke, available for download on Android and iOS devices.
You’d be surprised to know how many seniors enjoy playing video games. Before Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft came up with the Wii, PlayStation, and Xbox gaming consoles, arcade games were the rage back in the day. Games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Frogger, and Ms. Pac-Man are popular among seniors. Today, you can download these games and play the same configuration using an emulator (a computer program that imitates a video game console), most of which are available for free online. Therefore, why not form a gaming club and discover fellow seniors who are ready for a game night? Platforms like Wii come with a slow learning curve, so seniors who are good with technology can join you and enjoy some of the latest sports games on the console. You can even organize competitions and tournaments with single-player and multiplayer sports to keep your fellow nursing home residents engaged.
In today’s day and age of internet connectivity, it has become necessary for even seniors of all ages to learn basic technology. While you might already be good with technology, many seniors out there still don’t know or believe they don’t have to learn the new ways of the fast-evolving world. So, a technology workshop where teenagers and adults who are technology enthusiasts can introduce innovations in hardware and software to seniors who are eager to learn will be an exciting learning experience. A few simple classes include an introduction to video calls to teach the beloved seniors how to connect with their friends and family. Seniors can also learn useful integrated technologies on Wi-Fi or mobile networks like maps for navigation. Technology enthusiasts among seniors can even learn to play games or view streaming content online to pass the time while recovering from any chronic illness or surgery.
Technology is not reserved only for tech-savvy individuals; there are many ways seniors and elderly residents living in healthcare facilities can enjoy innovative smart gadgets. Virtual reality (VR) experience is a really cool idea for a fun activity that can be planned for seniors of all ages. VR experiences can transport you to various locations across the globe while sitting in the comfort of your room or common hall at the senior home. You can explore unfamiliar places, exotic locations, remote wilderness, and experiences recorded to provide a completely immersive experience all in one place. VR experiences even include exercises for improving cognitive function used as part of therapeutic training during recovery from chronic illnesses or major surgery. Either way, it’s an incredible and engaging activity for residents in a nursing home.
General group discussion activities
Talking about a lifetime of experience and guiding young generations is another great activity for seniors in nursing homes. Seniors can enlighten young minds about the dos and don’ts of leading a healthy lifestyle. Interactive sessions are also a wonderful way to mingle with other residents living in the facility and share life experiences. In fact, many assisted living care centers collaborate with college-going students and young volunteers who help take care of super seniors requiring assistance with day-to-day activities. It’s an enjoyable way to gather everyone and organize lively discussions, debating the merits and demerits of pressing topics.
These are a few suggestions to help improve the quality of living at senior care homes and assisted living facilities. Basic amenities aside, you can definitely benefit from the excitement that helps keep spirits high and makes you want to look forward to something other than the routine. After all, everybody has a right to live life to the fullest. And for this very reason, you must take the first steps and participate wholeheartedly in these fun activities.