Check out the list of events for any assisted living in Columbus, and you’ll think you’re looking at the activities calendar for a cruise ship. You’ll find everything from yoga classes to card games to trips to a variety of interesting locations. That’s because staff members at these communities know that seniors who are interacting with others and using their minds and bodies on a regular basis are seniors who are happier and healthier and who may even live longer.
The benefits of staying active
While adult children might visit their parents frequently—home health care workers may even stop by daily—seniors living independently often become isolated due to lack of transportation, health issues or simple apathy. Left alone for large chunks of their days and nights, the people on the TV may be the only voices they hear some days, while a pet could be the only reason they get out of bed in the morning. This isolation can lead to depression, but more importantly, a 2013 British study reported that social isolation and loneliness could also put seniors at greater risk of early death.
However, in an assisted living community, seniors are surrounded by people their own age, with access to many ways to remain engaged and nimble both physically and mentally. A painting class, an ice cream social or a cup of coffee with a friend are often only a few steps away. Just as inactivity breeds loneliness and despair, increased activity levels build seniors’ self-esteem, and in essence, give them a reason to live. But participating in activities every day is certainly not a requirement. If a resident isn’t feeling up to it one day, staying in their room is always an option.
What’s on the schedule?
At any given time, you might find a group of residents inside facing off in a rousing game of Wii™ bowling or outdoors enjoying a picnic at a local lake or strolling through a Japanese garden.
“At the beginning of spring, we celebrated by having one of our famous Spring Break weeks,” says the director of one Columbus assisted living facility we talked to. “The theme was ‘A Trip Around the World.’ Each day we ‘visited’ a different country, learning about each country’s culture from special guests and tasting authentic cuisine from each location.” She adds, “It was a great success and wonderful example of how we not only have a great time, but exercise our brains at the same time.”
Also to keep residents’ minds sharp, assisted living facilities host ongoing classes and workshops to push seniors outside their comfort zone and expose them to new things. Seniors explore technology and creative writing, find out about financial and legal matters like protecting themselves from identity theft, and may finally learn a foreign language they’ve always wanted to know.
Customizing the activities to the residents
Assisted living staff know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to activities for seniors. Some residents may have physical limitations that prevent them from taking a nature hike, while others’ memory may make a technology or history class challenging.
With input from seniors’ family, the highly trained staff at these facilities often tailor their activities to each senior’s needs and also their preferences. With the many options available to them, residents are able to find activities they can enjoy and which also enrich their lives.
“We have four full-time activity staff members who do an amazing job of planning programs, events and outings,” explains a Columbus assisted living community. “There really is something for everyone!”
While many seniors move into assisted living because they can’t go it alone anymore, the fun and fellowship of this environment makes them glad they don’t have to!