Adult day care is perhaps one of the best kept secrets in elder care. It allows seniors to continue living in the community while still receiving supportive services and enjoying social and recreational opportunities that most can only get in residential long-term care facilities. This service is a godsend for both caregivers and seniors alike, but many often wonder, what does a senior do all day at an adult day center?

There’s no denying the stigma that adult day care carries. Many centers are working hard to combat the notion that they simply provide “glorified adult babysitting.” In fact, many elder care experts recommend referring to adult day care by another name, such as “the center” or “the club” to avoid infantilizing senior attendees. Once an elder leaves their comfort zone and tries attending a day program, they usually find it much more rewarding and engaging than sitting in front of the TV day after day.

For example, Helen, an 82-year-old retired nurse feels that her decision to attend an adult day center was a good one. Since she began going to the Hope PACE Care Center in Fort Myers, Florida, she feels that her quality of life has increased due to their holistic approach to care.


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She mentions that, in addition to better coordinating her health care, the center’s staff helps her in a variety of other ways. With their assistance, Helen was able to access large-print library books so she could read more easily, and they gave her a mini Christmas tree during the holidays to decorate her home. According to Helen, it’s the personalized, comprehensive approach to care that she appreciates most. “There’s no aspect of my life they haven’t touched,” she says.

A Typical Day at Adult Day Care

To provide seniors and family caregivers with a better idea of what goes on after a senior is dropped off at an adult day center, AgingCare visited the Hope PACE Care Center. Here’s what we learned firsthand about what a typical day might look like from the perspective of your elderly loved one

8 a.m. Arrival

Most facilities open around eight or nine in the morning and offer transportation services for seniors who cannot drive themselves or who don’t have someone to drop them off.

8:15 a.m. Eat breakfast

Hope PACE has a designated space for walkers and canes that guests don’t need to use once they are in the facility. Seniors drop off their mobility aids once they arrive and then head to the group dining area. When it comes to breakfast, day centers generally offer a variety of food options. Some, like Hope PACE, employ nutritionists who work with seniors to design meal and snack plans that follow their dietary restrictions and complement their care plans.

9 a.m. Catch up on current events

Every morning, a staff member at Hope PACE reads newspaper articles aloud for those seniors who cannot or do not want to read the paper on their own. Guests are encouraged to discuss these headlines while they enjoy morning beverages like coffee, tea and juice.

10 a.m. Work up a sweat

Daily exercise classes have become staples at most senior centers. Classes are often offered at different times throughout the day so that guests (also called ‘participants’) can choose when they want to work out. Popular offerings include chair yoga, tai chi, Wii Fit games, light strength training, balance exercises and more.

11 a.m. Enjoy the great outdoors

Many adult day centers feature courtyards, decks or other outside spaces where seniors can spend time outdoors, weather permitting. Participants can get some sun, take a walk, birdwatch and enjoy the fresh air. Hope PACE even has a workspace on their outdoor patio where seniors who like to garden can pot and tend to flowers and other plants.

12 p.m. Have lunch

In addition to providing hot, nutritious meals on-site, many adult day care centers offer nutrition counseling that enables seniors to eat better at home. Staff members at Hope PACE can organize grocery shopping trips and even help attendees plan menus and find recipes for simple homecooked meals that accommodate their dietary restrictions and preferences.

1 p.m. Physical and occupational therapy

Adult day health care centers like Hope PACE offer physical and occupational therapy services. Physical therapy facilitates recovery from injury or surgery, while occupational therapy helps seniors adapt and hone daily living skills that help them remain independent. Therapy helps seniors regain and maintain maximum function so that they can continue leading active and engaging lives and avoid placement in long-term care.

2 p.m. Bowl a 245 on the Wii

Adult day centers are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and many have expanded their activities offerings to include video games. The Nintendo Wii is especially popular with seniors, and games on this console include bowling, tennis, baseball, golf and much more.

2:30 p.m. Snack time and socialization

Friendships between seniors and care staff are encouraged in most centers. Getting to know participants on an individual level is integral to providing personalized, quality care.

3 p.m. Retreat to the quiet room

The hustle and bustle of a busy adult day center can sometimes be too much for a senior. Quiet areas are generally set aside to act as a refuge for those who are not feeling well, who wish to take a nap, or who just want some peaceful downtime.

4 p.m. Meet with the physician

The Hope Center is one of many adult day health centers that participates in the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). This joint Medicare and Medicaid program utilizes an interdisciplinary care team to coordinate core aspects of a senior’s care all in one place. Services include medication management, nutritional counseling, diagnostic and lab services, social services, primary care, nursing care, specialized care and much more. The goal of this program is to support seniors’ physical and mental health and help them live independently in the community for as long as possible.

4:30 p.m. Get Creative

Like many elder care providers, Hope PACE offers a robust arts and music program that allows seniors to let their creative juices flow. Dabbling in the arts requires no previous experience and is an excellent way for guests to connect with one another, reduce stress and anxiety, and make creations they are proud of.

5 p.m. Catch a ride home

Some adult day centers feature extended care hours in the evenings and on weekends, but Hope PACE operates 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The same transportation team that provides rides to the center, facilitates field trips and drives seniors to off-site medical appointments can also bring seniors home after a full day of respite care.

This is just a glimpse of a typical day at one adult day center. Many centers vary the activities and events they provide on a daily basis, and modern centers also put an emphasis on allowing seniors a great deal of freedom when it comes to choosing how they want to spend their time there. You can learn more about the offerings and schedules at local adult day centers by obtaining brochures and even visiting in person. Getting a feel for the facility, the staff and the other guests your loved one may be interacting with will give you a good idea of whether a particular adult day care provider is the right fit.