Senior living providers tend to be protective of their content. With the possible exception of community design ideas, senior living providers seem to be most protective of their activities programming. This is likely because activities are generally one of the most asked about departments during a tour, and one of the reasons that residents and families generally respond either positively or negatively in customer service surveys.
We at Senior GuidePost (SGP) believe that the best way to develop a robust activities program is to be intentional about the format of the program as a whole, building it around a few key categories. The following is a list of primary themes for activities programs that the SGP team uses, but it is not intended to be a hard-and-fast list. We encourage providers to build their own format, as programs surely must differ based on a variety of factors, including geographic demographics, resident diversity, activity staff capabilities, budgets, and community acuity levels. Our list, intended to illustrate an overall philosophy, is:
Senior Living Sample Activity Program Outline (Categories/Subcategories):
- Resident Physical Fitness
- Cardiovascular fitness
- Mental Acuity and Dexterity Training
- Memory testing
- Task-based activities
- Environmental Connections
- The city, state, and national environments (current news and issues)
- The outside/natural world
- Relationship Building
- Family interactions
- Relationships with other residents
- Staff and resident relationships
In our communities, these are the four tenants of a strong activities program. The Life Enrichment team should make sure that each of the activities planned that month satisfies at least one of these primary categories.
Best Practices for Life Enrichment Teams:
- A best practice for activity directors is to craft programming that will satisfy multiple categories (i.e. building muscles while building relationships).
- A second-best practice is to identify key subcategories as shown above to drive specific activities.
- Tailoring activity programming to specific residents, or at least groups of residents, allows for progress to be made within peer groups. Having separate classes for beginners and advanced groups builds camaraderie between residents with similar capacities, encourages progress for higher acuity residents, and builds participation by reducing the intimidation levels common of lower-functioning residents in settings with more able residents.
- Long-term programs lasting weeks or months may provide residents with a greater sense of involvement and can build relationships while satisfying requirements of the primary categories list. For example, a resident Olympics program may have two or three events a week during the Olympic games in February 2018. Pitting teams against each other over this extended period can provide residents a feeling of belonging. Whether winning or losing, participating residents will feel like a part of the team, combating isolation and depression.
- Incorporating other departments is a great way for residents and staff members to get to know one another. Utilizing dietary staff in programming by creating and executing a resident’s favorite holiday recipe builds trust and friendship between the resident and non-activities staff.
- Understanding your residents’ interests and their lives before moving to your community can allow for a successful program series. Incorporating your residents’ lifelong experiences can both help the community, and continue to give purpose to a person’s life. If a resident was a master gardener, creating a resident flower bed in the community’s landscape and charging your master gardener with the planning and regular maintenance of that bed can provide him or her with a mission.
- Field trips outside of the community can be an opportunity to incorporate a number of categories into a single activity. Visiting the state capitol building helps to promote interaction with the environment, build relationships, and be physically and emotionally stimulating.
For this post, we decided to resist the temptation to provide specific programs as not to stifle creativity and build a list of traditional programs. In our “Look Up” series on Innovation in Senior Living, we will get more specific on trending activities programs with the intent of highlighting new ideas in our industry.
All the best in building a strong activities program for your residents!