August 21st was National Senior Citizens Day, a holiday instituted in the 1980s to celebrate older adults and their contributions to society. As senior living occupancy rates increased steadily over the last four quarters (reaching 81.4% in Q2 of 2022), communities have an incredible opportunity to support a growing number of residents, not just on Senior Citizens Day, but every day.
Amenities and recreation events aren’t the only ways that senior living communities can support their residents’ well-being. Those living in senior care communities have lifetimes of experience, wide ranges of interests, and desires to continue to grow and learn. SilverAssist recently explored how communities can support their older adult residents every day. Here are seven ways that senior living communities can enrich their residents’ lives.
As Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia become more prevalent among senior living community residents, training staff to support residents with dementia is more important than ever. Validation training educates caregivers about best practices for communicating with people with dementia to support the residents’ dignity and emotional wellness.
Sunrise Senior Living communities now have their regional clinical nurses complete validation training. Sunrise already uses this method with its front-line caregivers, and widening the scope of training to more of its staff reinforces the importance of communication to support residents’ needs.
Physical health and chronic conditions begin to take center stage in life’s later years. Connecting residents with health programs that empower them to be proactive in their health can help people feel more positive and in control of their lives.
Senior living community group Brookdale is piloting Healthplus, which is a new model for coordinating care. Brookdale CEO, Cindy Baier, says the launching of this program is bringing a new level of care to their communities. The initiative is coordinating care like never before, as “residents are more connected to their health care providers with frequent touch points, receiving preventative care and proactive management of chronic conditions.”
Senior care community residents have different levels of experience with technology, but introducing and educating them on its benefits can invigorate, inspire, and entertain. Not only can residents keep in closer contact with family members through video chats, texts, and phone calls, but technology can also build community within your facility. Senior living community Enlivant recently initiated a technology program in 214 of its locations. Residents received iPads with apps to promote dimensions of wellness, including creativity, intellectual stimulation, physical fitness, recreation, social connection, and spiritual and emotional wellness.
Enlivant’s Divisional Life Enrichment and Memory Care Director, Mary Schafer, highlights a success story of the program’s positive impact. In one community, the program spurred a “staycation” group after a resident shared memories of a trip she took years before: “Residents were able to visit Paladera Canyon through YouTube utilizing the iPad connected to the TV. [Then, they] had food that aligned with a trip to the canyon, enjoying Texas popcorn and sweet tea with lemon.”
Humans are lifelong learners. Senior living community residents come from different walks of life and many have bucket-list items to learn about various topics. Consider polling your residents about their interests, then offer education programs that teach what they want to learn about.
To meet your residents’ varying skill levels, topics can range from advanced (such as how to use iMovie to make slideshows of the photos of family and friends on their smartphone) to basic (such as how to use the photo and video features of a smartphone’s camera app). If a resident or group of residents is particularly skilled on a topic, like photography or bird-watching, they may want to lead lessons for their fellow residents.
While residents in some senior living communities can have pets, not all facilities allow it. Even in pet-friendly facilities, not all residents who want a pet may be able to care for one. Bringing in therapy animals can offer animal-lover residents the opportunity for connecting with furry friends without the need to care for a pet. The National Institute of Health reported that interactions with animals can decrease levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. The NIH also reported that interacting with animals can lower blood pressure, reduce loneliness, and boost a person’s mood.
In addition to recreational activities, residents can enjoy participating in clubs that interest them. The consistency of weekly or bi-weekly meetings can encourage a social community among residents and scheduled programming they can look forward to. Consider starting a club and inviting interested residents to not only join but run it. It may spark ideas for other clubs that residents want to form.
Popular clubs among some communities include a gardening club, which can help active residents get together and water the plants and flowers on the property; a hospitality club, which help can welcome new residents so they feel at home with their peers from their first day in the community; or, a stargazer club that can get residents out and about in the evening after dinner to increase physical activity.
Whether senior care community residents are new to your community or settled in, they’re experiencing constant change. With counselors focusing on emotional wellness, residents can stabilize, maintain, and improve mental and emotional health. Perhaps your community can offer low-stakes group sessions for varying needs, like widows and widowers, people who have lost children, or military veterans. The opportunity to have telehealth appointments can allow residents to have individual sessions from the privacy of their apartment.
And, don’t forget about inclusivity. The National Research Center on LGBTQ+ Aging estimated in 2016 that 2.7 million adults ages 50 and older identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in the U.S., including 1.1 million ages 65 and older. The LGBTQ community faces unique challenges in senior living communities, including fear of discrimination and fear of losing the identity they spent their lives building. Striving to meet all your residents’ emotional needs can help build a stronger, tight-knit community for everyone under your roof.
There are many ways to support the well-being of your residents. You can even start by asking them what they’d like to see in terms of support, educational growth, mental health, and recreational activities.
Senior living communities can learn from one another and implement ideas that have been proven to be successful. We’d love to learn what your community is doing. Send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may feature your community in a future post.
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