By June Fletcher
Men are getting short shrift from senior living facilities, which tend toward doilies, chintz and manicure afternoons rather than manly activities like poker nights, action-movie viewings and drinking at a bar, according to a recent story in The Washington Post.
And even though men only make up 26% of those in assisted living, the giant boomer generation is aging rapidly so facilities will soon be forced to take more notice of their preferences, the article said. Author Pam Gerhardt's tongue –in-cheek suggestion? Start by changing the phrase "assisted living" to "he-hab."
But is Ms. Gerhardt correct in her critique? Not really.
Plenty of assisted living facilities offer activities geared to guys. Later this month, The Arbors Assisted Living in Westfield, Mass., is hosting a men's night at the pub—with "no girls allowed"—while Emeritus at Bradenton in Bradenton, Fla., has both Wii bowling and horse racing on its calendar. The Cottages in Boise, Idaho, just hosted a visit to an elk ranch. In July, Vintage Gardens Assisted Living in St. Joseph, Mo., held a "True Grit Guys Night" that featured men in Stetsons getting together for movies and munchies—and made a YouTube video of the event.
Kim Blocher, social program manager at Brandon Woods at Alvamar in Lawrence, Kan., told AgingCare.com that the stereotype that today's senior living facilities lack masculine appeal "just isn't true." While men don't come to obviously feminine activities like stitch and chat classes, they flock to his regular blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em parties and turned out in force for outings to a Kansas City Royals baseball game and a Father's Day car show and brunch in June. "They like activities that are competitive," he says, even if the prizes are sundries like paper towels.
Many facilities have permanent activities and amenities oriented to men, too. New Horizons in Marlborough, Mass., has a putting green and horseshoe pit, as well as a croquet and bocce set. Cypress Palms in Largo, Fla., has a veteran's club, computer club, regular poker games and men's-only coffees, and even an intergenerational drum circle.
Granted, getting a group of men together isn't easy. In an article for TheActivitiesDirectorsOffice.com, Debi Trammell, activities director at Crestview Court in Cedar Hill, Texas, argues that men like to talk to other men, but are not likely to seek them out. In fact, men sometimes need multiple reminders, prodding from peers and reassurance that their friends are coming before they'll participate. When they are finally do show up, however, be it at a pool hall, on a fishing trip or just on an outing to a hardware store, "they enjoy sharing stories and accomplishments."
Finding activities that appeal to senior men can be tricky, too. A NursingHomeResourceActivities.com article notes that men "don't usually care to do some activities that women love to do, or not for that long," and would rather discuss politics and sports than go to bingo or do crafts. Still, it notes, a number of games and activities can spark their interest, including chess; card, trivia, video and Wii games; magic tricks; train sets; beer and newspaper clubs; and karaoke. He-man hobbies are popular, too, like woodworking and fly-fishing. So are outings to jazz and comedy clubs, sporting events, rodeos and racetracks. And don't forget restaurants—the article suggests a trip to Hooters.