Activities Top Tips: Encouraging Elders to Remain Active in Senior Housing

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The AgingCare.com forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips and suggestions for encouraging seniors to participate in activities at their independent living community, assisted living facility, nursing home or memory care unit.

Encouraging Elders to Remain Active in Long-Term Care Facilities

“My Dad is in a combined independent/assisted living facility. One thing that sparked his interest was attending community meetings where he could voice his opinion on whatever said meeting is about. The last one had to do with the food service. The only downside is that these meetings are only held quarterly at his facility.” –freqflyer

“Ask the staff to give your loved one a small task to do, like folding napkins for lunch, dinner, etc.” –ferris1

“I work in a senior community as the activities director. When the time comes that a resident loses interest in all the usual daily activities, I have to get very creative. Sometimes it’s as simple as just reminiscing or creating a sensory experience. Soft music, such as beach sounds, a hand rub with a lotion that smells like coconut, a shell for them to hold, a sun hat and maybe some lemonade to sip can all come together to evoke powerful memories of the beach. This is just one example of the kind of sensory basket you can put together. Think of the five senses and try to bring them alive. It is so subtle that they don’t even know it’s an activity or how important it is.” –Robinkathleen

“My mom used to help her assisted living facility staff assemble their marketing folders. They loved it and she loved the praise. She considered it her ‘job,’ which made her feel useful.” –laurabutler28

“My Dad’s facility invites residents to help prepare the newsletters for mailing. Dad can stick on address labels, fold mailings and stuff envelopes, and he enjoys doing something productive. Another activity you might try is bringing your loved one your change jar and having them sort the coins so you can put them in rolls.” –LaurenBond

“My dad did construction as a career, so I would talk to him about facility renovations or how he would set up the garden outside. Every day he would draw up new blueprints for me. The staff at the facility was amazed at the details he put in these drawings. I am not a visual person, so it always looked like a bunch of scribbles to me, but he got excited explaining everything. Find out what your loved one was interested in when they were younger in an effort to utilize those skills and pursue those interests.” –tacy022

“Some seniors simply are not social and will not participate in group activities. Does the facility offer activities that are done individually, even if others are present, such as crafts, gardening activities, baking, etc.? Does the mere presence of other people bother them? Staying active is important. I would go over the monthly activities calendar with the social director and pick out some things that they might enjoy with or without other people.” –jeannegibbs

“My Dad is in a facility but has the desire to be useful, ‘work,’ and be involved. The staff is very good in that they’ve arranged for him to ‘work’ with the maintenance man (actually a fairly young man, who is more like a grandson age wise). He gets Dad to be the ‘helper’ (e.g. hold this, help me carry that, we’re going over here to fix… etc.). Then if Dad starts to act like he’s the ‘boss,’ this young man is very capable of just going along with it while they get the job done. This same young man also helps with some activities. The male residents do things like build and paint birdhouses in the spring and then put them up in various trees around the facility. This keeps them using hammers, handsaws and paint; things they used to do so they can identify with the tools. My dad also grew his own jalapeno chilies in his backyard. They know this, so they pull him in with some of the ladies when it’s time to plant flowers in the garden and water them. He enjoys that too.” –joannes

“Has your loved one made any friends or is there a staff member they relate well to? Maybe they can help get them more involved. I would also ask for a full workup and a medication review to rule out those depression or medication side effects. I put a birdfeeder outside Mom’s window, and she enjoys watching the birds. My mother was an interior decorator and a master gardener. The staff is aware of this and invites her to decorate the tables for holidays and special events, trim the Christmas trees, etc. She loves that. Keep trying different things, and don’t give up!” –huntersailor1

“I had to take a step back and realize that I was looking at Mom’s life through my own lens. To me, her life looks very isolating, depressing and boring, but she seems perfectly satisfied. So don’t let your own thoughts/expectations create more of a perceived issue for your loved one than may be there. Be encouraging, but remember, many seniors are satisfied with less stimulation and activity than we are.” –blannie

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