More Than Bingo!
Written by Janelle Meyers, CSA (R), LALD
I began my career in senior living in 1996. I had just graduated with my bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation. My first job was working in a nursing home as an activity assistant in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota.
For the next ten years, I devoted my work week to providing seniors with meaningful activities. It was a joy to bring smiles to people. The programming that is now offered in senior housing has evolved. While some assisted living communities still offer bingo and bible study there is so much more to look forward to.
Parties and Themed Get Togethers
Social events serve the purpose of bringing people together for the fun of it. Birthday parties, monthly themed get-togethers and holiday celebrations are other fun ways to bring people together. Some senior living communities will plan theme parties and design the menu to include a special meal related to the party. This gives everyone an opportunity to participate.
Music is a Must
Live music is one activity that almost everyone enjoys. You can sing along, clap, dance or just listen to the tunes. Music feeds the soul. It also helps to bring forgotten memories forward for people that have dementia.
Happy hour is not just for people who enjoy adult libations. Non-alcoholic options are almost always served too. Many assisted living homes include a generous snack to go along with the beverages.
Shoppping and Outings
Senior living almost always offers transportation for scheduled community outings. First off, most people like to go out to eat. Even when the senior living offers meals three times a day, getting out allows for a change of scenery.
Secondly, seniors like to go to the store and shop. In this case, the bus will take you from home and drop you off at the store. Sometimes, a staff member is available to assist you with shopping. Seasonal trips to the theater, casino, and other places around town offer entertainment outside of facility.
When I was an activity director, the residents of the senior living wanted to go sledding during the winter. One resident had never done this before, and it was something she always hoped to do. We loaded up the van and took the residents to Buck Hill in Burnsville.
I’ll never forget the smile on Clara’s face as she rode down the hill. As I helped her out of the inner tube she said to me, “you made my dream come true.” It is a highlight of my career.
Keeping your mind engaged in stimulating programs is important as a person ages. Senior living homes are now offering a wide range of programs to do just that, keep your brain active.
Lifelong learning is one of the cornerstones at Ebenezer communities. They combine educational programs with a collection of coordinated arts to keep the mind active. The Waters Senior Living offers a program called The Great Courses. This award-winning program allows you to learn from experts and professors from institutions all around the world.
Technology now offers many ways for seniors to stay engaged in educational programming. Whether it’s Solitaire or Soduko, games like these help engage the mind. Online courses are a benefit today. We can learn about events and history all over the world in the comforts of our own home.
Art gives everyone the opportunity to explore and tap into their creative selves. Whether it is a guided painting class, drawing or journaling, we all have an artist within us.
It is amazing to watch something beautiful emerge from a blank page. There are some senior living communities that have designated space such as an art studio or a woodworking shop. At times, these classes are taught by the residents living there. This is a great way to share a talent and give leadership opportunities to the people living there.
Dementia Specific Programming
When it comes to serving people with memory loss, senior living communities create targeted programs that are designed to give purpose and meaning for those living in memory care.
For several years, I worked in an assisted living community that served as a primary residence to more than 70 people living with dementia. What made this community special was the programming and the people who carried out the services daily. Great care was taken in planning activities that would be meaningful to the people living there.
Music always played a big role in bringing forward memories. Faith based programming was also incorporated into each month. Sensory programs like baking and special meals were also intertwined throughout the month. Reminiscing about the past was incorporated into sing along programs and trivia.
In memory care, it is essential to know the interests of each resident to design a program that gives everyone an opportunity to participate.
Celebrate Activity Professionals
January 24th, 2024 is National Activity Professionals day. It is a day to recognize and thank the creative teams that bring so much joy to the people they serve in senior housing and beyond. Take a moment to say Thank You or write a note of encouragement.
Planning creative programs month after month is challenging. The professionals that chose this career do it because they love making other people happy.
Thank you, activity professionals for making a difference in the lives of seniors!