One of the biggest misconceptions about assisted living is that they are dreary, hospital-like places where residents lie around all day and do nothing. But today's modern assisted living communities are just the opposite. Many feature wellness centers, swimming pools, beauty parlors, restaurant-style dining, and other amenities that make senior living feel more like resort living.
One of the benefits of living in an assisted living community is the easy access to activities, events, and social functions. Many assisted living facilities offer different activities to suit people's unique needs, abilities, and interests, which helps create a stronger sense of purpose in their daily life.
Although helping a loved one move into an assisted living community is a big decision, it comes with immense benefits. If your parent is nervous about the change, remind them that moving to a senior living community often leads to a more vibrant and active lifestyle.
Check with the activities director at any senior living community to learn more about specific programs. Many communities offer a variety of programs, amenities, and activities in an effort to help every unique resident find their niche and feel at home. Read on to find dozens of activities that your loved one may be able to expect at their new assisted living community.
Music, dance, creative writing, and other art forms can help improve older adults’ quality of life and well-being, according to the National Institute on Aging. Such benefits include reduced stress and better cognitive function, memory, and self-esteem.
For this reason, assisted living communities will often incorporate imaginative activities that anyone can enjoy. These may include the following:
- Flower arranging
- Writing workshops
It’s common for many older adults to start spending more and more time alone at home. But loneliness and social isolation can be detrimental to a loved one’s overall health and even increase feelings of depression or anxiety. That’s why assisted living communities often make meaningful social engagement a big priority on their activities calendars.
Typically, a community will have a large common area or dining hall where they hold events. Many also feature a garden, lawn, or patio for outdoor gatherings.
Here are some examples of social events you might see on an assisted living activity calendar:
- Pizza parties
- Ice cream socials
- Cards, board games, and game nights
- Movie nights
- Holiday celebrations
- Pool parties
- Picnics and barbecues
- Happy hours
- Stand-up comedy shows
- Visiting musical performances
- Visiting theater performances
- Dog shows
- Wii video games (baseball, bowling, tennis, golf)
Adults with an active lifestyle tend to enjoy a wealth of long-term health benefits, according to the National Institute on Aging. Participating in meaningful activities is associated with a lower likelihood of developing certain diseases, a longer lifespan, improvement in thinking abilities, and greater overall happiness.
Many senior living communities offer group activities and other amenities designed to help keep seniors active and engaged:
- Swimming and water aerobics classes
- Paths or trails for walking or bicycling
- Community dances and dance classes, such as salsa, line dancing, and square dancing
- Tennis lessons and matches
- Zumba and jazzercise classes
- Golfing areas or putting greens
- Gardening clubs
- Bird watching
- Outdoor games like corn hole, horseshoes, bocce, shuffleboard, and croquet
It’s no secret that staying mentally active can help older adults feel happier and healthier. But that doesn’t have to mean committing to a complex word puzzle every day. There’s a seemingly endless range of fun, social, and stimulating activities that can help seniors spark new interests, rediscover old passion projects, and promote lifelong learning.
Assisted living communities may include the following in their daily activities programs:
- Cooking classes
- Painting classes
- Foreign language classes
- Needlepoint classes
- Computer classes
- Genealogy courses
- Local history courses
- TED Talks and virtual lectures
- Book clubs
- Discussion groups
- Philanthropic opportunities
Rest and relaxation
While good health is generally associated with diet and exercise, relaxation can also be a powerful tool in fighting certain ailments. Aging can present several new life changes, one of which is an increase in the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol and a decrease in positive hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Rest and relaxation can help naturally balance these hormones. It can even help fight symptoms of depression, brain fog, and stress.
To promote healthy hormones and peaceful minds, assisted living communities often schedule time for the following activities in their calendars:
- Spa treatments
- Morning strolls
- Visits to local butterfly or botanical gardens
Spirituality is a way of life for many people. Most senior living communities will offer opportunities for residents to practice their faith without having to leave the campus. For residents who aren’t religious or spiritual, communities may offer soul-nurturing therapies or other secular programs intended to promote mindfulness.
Some examples of these include the following:
- Prayer services
- Pet engagement
- Art sessions
Travel is a popular hobby that exposes people to new experiences and promotes self-confidence. Day trips can have many of the same benefits.
Assisted living communities, especially those located in larger towns and cities, often take their residents on exciting excursions to explore the surrounding area. These outings might include the following:
- Sporting events
- Craft shows
- Farmers markets
- Antique malls and flea markets
- Walks in the park
- Community service events and volunteer opportunities
Things to keep in mind about assisted living activity programs
Participation is optional. Although assisted living promotes an active and social lifestyle, residents aren’t required to participate in any activities. Talk with your loved one about the importance of taking part in various activities, and encourage them to socialize after moving in. You might suggest choosing two or three programs to attend early on so they can start meeting their new neighbors.
Less formal social interaction can still happen during meals and in shared community spaces. If your loved one is more introverted, they also have the option of staying in their apartment and enjoying more solitary activities, such as watching a movie or reading a book.
Routines and daily schedules can be flexible. Residents in assisted living still maintain a degree of independence. For example, if your loved one usually plays bingo, they can decide not to play one day if they don’t feel up to it.
Although there may be more routine to things like bathing, grooming, medications, and housekeeping, residents can choose their own routine and level of participation in activities.
Resident feedback is often highly valued. Many assisted living activity directors will seek out feedback and input from residents to learn whether they’re enjoying the activities. They may also encourage residents to share other assisted living activity ideas that would interest them. Popular suggestions might end up on the community calendar, or a senior could create their own informal activity or social group with friends.
Making new friends can help a new residence feel like home. A brand new community with a busy activities calendar can feel intimidating, but the friendships your loved one creates will make the move more than worthwhile. Encourage them to branch out, try new things, and engage with other residents and staff members.
If you’re looking for a community with specific amenities or programs for your loved one, feel free to contact a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom, AgingCare’s senior living referral counterpart, for guidance. They’ll listen to your concerns, offer their professional support, and help find a local community with an activities program that’s right for your loved one.
Reviewed by senior care expert Leslie Fuller, LMSW, CDP.
Participating in the arts creates paths to healthy aging (https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/participating-arts-creates-paths-healthy-aging)
Participating in Activities You Enjoy As You Age (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/participating-activities-you-enjoy-you-age)