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Facility Activities
A Look at Social & Recreational Activities Provided by Facilities

Activities in Assisted living

If you're seeking an active assisted living facility that offers a variety of energetic and creative things to do, then look to the activities director on staff. This staff person is responsible to keep residents busy, fulfilled and stimulated. A good activities director asks residents and their families for suggestions to keep the calendar filled with a variety fun things to do; at the facility and beyond its walls.

The events keep residents with different abilities and interests engaged. Assisted living activities are important and enhance lives at the community. One study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that people 65 years or older who maintain a high level of leisure stimulation showed a significantly reduced risk of dementia.

Getting residents to smile is not difficult with a fun mix of activities. Creating fun at an assisted living facility is not expensive nor is it complicated. Many assisted living facilities are not the stereotypical boring place. Most offer rewarding and positive experiences for residents and activities play a big part in it.

Simple and Fun Activities Offered

There is a wide range of activities offered by facilities and thees are just not limited to on-site activities. Many facilities offer resident activities off-site. In the 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities, 79% of surveyed facilities offered social and recreational activities outside the actual facility.

Does this facility provide social and recreational activities outside the facility?
Responses of not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Below are just a few examples of typical resident activities that may be offered by an assisted living facility.

  • Cook-outs and barbecues - the residents dress in resort attire and fire up the pit.
  • Concert under the stars - summer and early fall is a great time for residents to meet outside in the common area and listen to live music. Serve sandwiches, snacks, cookies, punch and wine. Go dancing.
  • Arts and crafts fair - sewing, woodcarving, painting, drawing and scrapbooks are great examples to show off at a fair. Invite residents to display and sell crafts they've made. Invite friends and family of residents, even potential residents.
  • Picnics - everyone loves outdoor outings. Put out shade umbrellas and red-checked tablecloths and load the tables with delicious picnic cuisine.
  • Auto and motorcycle talk - residents share stories about their favorite cars and motorcycles; reminisce about where they went in them and who accompanied them.
  • Movie and pizza nights - have pizzas delivered while residents watch favorite classics.
  • Fitness Activities and More
  • Field trips made to local museums (art and more), sports events, concerts, and shows.
  • Dancing is very popular and it's a daily event. Residents enjoy line dancing, ballroom dancing, and swing dancing. It's a great way to stay fit too.
  • Karaoke singing is good for the soul and many communities stage their own singing competitions.
  • Outdoor excursions are not all strenuous. Being outdoors is refreshing and good for the body and soul. Walk along easy trails among the flowers, plants and trees--pack a picnic too. Enjoy short outings to the local community gardens.
  • Virtual game night with the Wii - a video game system allows residents to interact by moving the body in lieu of pressing buttons on a remote device. It's easy and fun to use. Seniors enjoy this pastime and it's a great way to help residents get the body moving. Wii offers tennis, golf, baseball, bowling, dancing and more fun games.
  • Lifelong learning classes and workshops at the facility or at a nearby community college gives residents a chance to learn a new language, a new craft, discuss world and domestic affairs, and to take writing workshops.
  • Fitness classes like Tai Chi, Zumba and Yoga are among the favorites of residents today. Assisted living activities directors encourage residents to view exercise as a fun activity rather than hard work. Many facilities have state-of-the-art gyms and fitness centers on-site for residents to use.
  • Entertainment like Luaus with Hawaiian music and Creole events with jazz are on the calendar of many facilities. Other entertainment includes standup comedy, opera, bands, drama groups, and visiting choirs.
  • Senior Olympics are big events at some communities where residents compete for metals and prizes.
  • Dog shows designed for residents to show off their pets.
  • Bridge is a beneficial game, it provides a good cognitive workout and social engagement, which is ideally suited for seniors.
  • Wired technology allows residents to check email and use Skype to keep in touch with their friends and families. iPad devices let residents customize the size of the print in books they are reading--it's so easy to download books from a city library.

There's an infinite variety in activities at fine assisted living facilities. The activities highlighted here are just a small sampling, but clearly show that senior communities are more fun than in the past.

Finding an assisted living community with a good activity program is a must when you're seeking a community for yourself or a loved one. Speak with the activities director during your visit and check the community calendar to make sure lots of activities are available.

What to Ask an Assisted Living Activity Director

Below are some specific questions you may consider asking the Assisted Living Director:

  • How do you view the role of activities here? Look for an activity director who knows the rewards of mind and body stimulation. You want a director who is very social, one who promotes resident connection.
  • How do you customize activities for residents? Activities must target all residents, even those who have special needs.
  • What kind of physical activities do you offer? Take a close look at these. An active senior has a lower risk of developing heart disease, bone mass loss, muscle deterioration and more. It improves balance and muscle strength, if a senior remains active.
  • What mental activities are scheduled? Quality activities directors know the important link between cognitive function and mental stimulation. Look for programs that include word games, digital learning tools, scavenger hunts, cooking classes, puzzles, and crafts.
  • Do you include activities that tie into the local community at large? Seniors volunteer. Volunteering gives them a chance to give back and be purposeful. A good program includes community service projects.
  • Does the facility support a resident council who oversee new activities? Residents should have choices in their schedule and activities and a council plays a big role to make that happen.

Studies show that activities are a major social and emotional outlet for assisted living residents and contribute significantly to their physical and mental well-being.

The Benefits of Community Activities in Assisted Living Facilities

As we discussed, many Assisted Living Facilities have activities for residents that wish to participate. Some residents that are just moving into their new ALF room or apartment may not want to join in activities right away. This is understandable, moving away from a familiar home and into a new environment is stressful. Not everyone would want to engage in activities right away.

Residents benefit from interaction
Residents benefit from interaction

Assisted living residents can interact and engage in numerous activities offered by the communities. Assisted Living Facilities activities can change that. Scheduled outings in some facilities go on several times a week. Residents can go out shopping, enjoy movie nights, or visit restaurants. These outings are often conducted as a group to increase the social enjoyment of residents.

Other activities are held on the premises of the facilities. Most Assisted Living Facilities have common areas where staff and residents can interact. Parties may be held for resident birthdays, anniversaries, or resident 'mixers'. These activities can allow the residents to get to know one another better and forge new friendships. Some residents may even find a new romantic partner to enjoy their later years with.

Residents are not required to participate in group activities or outings. In fact, residents may choose to go on outings with their families or friends instead. They are encouraged to live their lives as independently as they did before moving into an assisted living home. Some facilities are arranged in full service apartment dwellings where the residents can still cook for themselves, decorate, and have guests. For these residents, the outings that include grocery shopping ease the stress of carrying groceries and allow them to choose decorations to give their dwelling their own personal touch.

Assisted living does not mean the end of independence. It does not mean that residents will ever have to give up activities they enjoyed in the past. A greater array of social opportunities could be in the future of someone interested in the amenities of an Assisted Living Facility. Increased socialization can lift the mood of a previously depressed loved one. The elimination of isolation is one of the best points concerning an Assisted Living Facility.

For those residents that have settled in or want to get their minds off of their recent move - Assisted Living Facilities can be a wealth of entertainment. Sometimes more than the resident has experienced for many years. If they have been living alone, they may not have been able to get out as much as they wished. Perhaps the resident lived with their son or daughter and due to work or other responsibilities, the child was unable to take their parent out often.

In addition to activities provided by the facility, we also recommend that residents stay active with their own activities and we suggest many of these in our resident activities resource.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.