According to the 2015-2016 National Study of Long-Term Care Providers (NSLTCP), more than twice as many women (70.6 percent) live in residential care communities compared to men (29.4 percent). Often, the activities, décor and social events at assisted living facilities and nursing homes seem to appeal overwhelmingly to female residents (think arts and crafts, chintz and spa days). However, the baby boomer generation is aging rapidly and facilities will soon be forced to take more notice of their male residents’ preferences.
In fact, plenty of senior living communities are expanding activities and amenities geared towards elderly men. For example, The Arbors Assisted Living in Westfield, Massachusetts, hosts a regular men’s night at its onsite pub, while Canyon Creek in Cottonwood, Utah, offers weekly Wii Sports events in simulated bowling, baseball and tennis. The Cottages, an assisted living and memory care community in Weiser, Idaho, frequently takes residents on field trips to practice putting and play a few holes at a local golf course.
Kim Blocher, social programing manager at Brandon Woods at Alvamar in Lawrence, Kansas, explains that the stereotype surrounding senior living facilities and their lack of masculine appeal, “Just isn’t true.” While male residents typically aren’t interested in more feminine activities like sewing and afternoon tea, they flock to Blocher’s regular blackjack and Texas hold ’em events. In fact, outings to a Kansas City Royals baseball game and a Father’s Day car show and brunch were both hits with the elderly men at Brandon Woods. “They tend to like activities that are competitive,” Blocher notes, even if the prizes are sundries like paper towels.
Many facilities have run with this concept and created permanent events and amenities oriented to men, too. New Horizons in Marlborough, Massachusetts, has installed a putting green, a horseshoe pit, and a devoted space for residents to play lawn games like croquet and bocce ball. Features and events at Cypress Palms in Largo, Florida, include a veteran’s club, a computer club, men-only chats over coffee and even an intergenerational drum circle.
Granted, getting a group of men together isn’t always easy. Debi Trammell, an activity director in Texas, points out that men tend to enjoy talking with other men, but they are not likely to seek each other out. In fact, men sometimes need multiple reminders, encouragement from peers and reassurance that their friends are also attending before they’ll agree to participate in an event or activity. When they finally do show up, however, “They enjoy sharing stories and accomplishments,” Trammell admits.
Finding activities that appeal to senior men can certainly be tricky. Of course, some male residents do enjoy playing bingo or honing their artistic skills, but many would rather discuss politics or watch sports. Still, a number of games, activities and social opportunities can spark their interest, including chess, cards, trivia, building and painting model cars, trains, planes, and ships, current events clubs, karaoke, woodworking, and fly fishing. Outings to comedy clubs, sporting events, musical performances, rodeos and restaurants can provide an exciting change of scenery for elderly men, too.
The easiest way to find a pastime that an aging loved one will enjoy is to get to know their personality and individual interests. A senior living community’s activity director should devote time to getting to know their residents and curate events and opportunities to meet those needs and interests. Most seniors require some gentle encouragement to get involved at first, but once they make some friends and find a few activities they like, it will help them settle into their new home and greatly improve their quality of life.