3 Life Enrichment Activities Popular at the Leading Life Plan Communities
Life enrichment activities help older adults foster social connections, stay active, and maintain their cognitive health. All of these behaviors are part of what the National Institute on Aging calls healthy aging.
Leading life plan communities know that the best life enrichment activities engage multiple dimensions of wellness, and research supports the associated health benefits. Socially active older adults are not only at lower risk for loneliness and other isolation-related risks but also more physically active.
Here are three popular life enrichment activities straight from the calendars of leading life plan communities.
Foster Relaxation with Gardening
Gardening is already one of the most common physical activities among older adults. It’s why communities like Sunrise Senior Living outline the various wellness benefits of gardening and encourage residents to start planting.
Perhaps intuitively, we know that going out into the fresh air and getting our hands dirty is good for our health, but science bears this out in a few different ways:
- Gardening enhances physiological and psychological relaxation in older adults, including reduced blood pressure, reduced feelings of anxiety, and increased levels of comfort and relaxation.
- The mere presence of greenery in the environment can reduce depression among older adults.
- Older adults who garden self-report increased self-esteem, productive endeavors, social engagement, and exercise – even if they were simply “being” in the garden rather than “doing” anything in the garden.
Life enrichment teams can also adapt gardening to serve residents of various abilities. For instance, independent living residents may cultivate their own gardens outside or inside their homes. But staff can also build a community garden with assisted living and memory care residents in mind. Gardens give residents the opportunity to act as caregivers in their own right. And those who already know how to garden can pass that knowledge on to others.
Plus, food grown in gardens can be linked with dining services (there’s nothing better than freshly-made salsa with tomatoes right off the vine) and nutrition education. When communities put residents in charge of choosing what to grow, this gives residents more ownership of these garden-centered life enrichment activities.
Get Residents Moving with Pickleball
Pickleball – a mix of tennis, ping pong, and badminton – has taken the country by storm in recent years, and senior living communities are no exception. In 2021, the United States gained about 66 courts per month, many at senior living communities like Cresswind.
In fact, older adults jumped on the pickleball train earlier than younger adults and still represent the largest group of what USA Pickleball calls its “core” participants; i.e., those who play eight or more times per year. In 2021, half of all serious pickleball players were 55 and older.
The fastest-growing demographic is those under 24, proving that pickleball has no age limit. That’s one reason why the sport is so appealing: most family members can meet the older adults in their lives on the pickleball court and foster those intergenerational connections. But pickleball is popular for plenty of other reasons, too.It’s considered a low-impact sport (great for knees and other joints), the rules are simple, and it can be adapted to players of different abilities, including those who use wheelchairs. It’s also great for cardiovascular health and blood pressure. One study even showed that older adults who played pickleball at least three times a week saw improvements in each of those areas.
Celebrate Identities with Cultural Programming
Residents at The Bluffs, an Arcadia property in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, enjoy celebrating Heikinpäivä each year. Heikinpäivä is a traditional Finnish-American midwinter festival that celebrates the heritage of many of the region’s people, who descend from the Finnish immigrants that first came to the UP in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
It’s a fun way to celebrate the region’s unique culture and the midpoint of winter, when “the bear rolls onto his other side,” as the Finnish saying goes. This year, the Bluffs’ celebration welcomed back a resident and staff favorite – Kivajat Finnish Youth Dancers – to end the month-long celebration.
One great aspect of including cultural celebrations on your life enrichment calendar is that several different engaging activities can be developed from the same theme. For example, the Bluff’s January calendar also included a Heikinpäivä Happy Hour. Some other activities might include…
- A baking class to make traditional Finnish treats.
- A painting class in which residents create a wintry scene.
- An outing to a Finnish traditional market in town.
Regional cultural celebrations are a great learning opportunity for residents who are unfamiliar with such traditions. What local celebrations can you bring into your life plan community?
Support Life Enrichment Activities Staff with Senior Living Technology
Life enrichment activities take careful planning. Many of the leading life plan communities use senior living technology to help create and manage their calendars as well as to promote events and stay in touch with residents and their families.
Calendar tools can help staff reduce time on calendar management by 80 percent. A Community Engagement tool helps staff connect directly with residents to keep them engaged with life enrichment activities and boost satisfaction scores by 20 percent.
Not sure which activities are a smash hit? You’re in luck. We’ve recently made it even easier for residents to share feedback after participating in life enrichment activities. All it takes now is the tap of a like or dislike button in the Community Engagement portal.