When older adults move to senior living communities, they’re not just looking for assistance in the day to day; they’re also looking for community. They’re looking for connections – for relationships with other like-minded people.
This is why life enrichment programs are such a crucial piece of any senior living community’s operations. It’s also why resident-led groups are vital in their own right. Here, we discuss how resident-led groups benefit the people participating in them and how you can support their formation.
Resident-Led Groups Let Community Members Tailor Social Engagement to Their Preferences
Older adults value their independence. It’s a primary consideration they make when evaluating communities and senior living options. Will I be able to live my life on my terms here? Will I be in a place that lets me rediscover passions and freely explore new ones? Will I receive support without losing my autonomy?
These are all questions that older adults juggle when contemplating a move to senior living. And this focus on independence – the emphasis on retaining autonomy – is why resident-led groups are such a powerful resident engagement tool. They let senior living residents take socializing into their own hands.
We recently spoke with a community partner who relayed an experience one of their residents had with starting a resident-led group. The resident and her husband loved watching NASCAR together. After her husband’s passing, the resident still wanted to watch NASCAR with others, but there wasn’t any existing event or group dedicated to it. Icon’s Community Engagement platform made it easy for the resident to form and organize her own NASCAR-watching group (thanks to features like member directories and event sharing). In practically no time at all, the resident had assembled her own cohort of avid NASCAR fans.
That’s what resident-led groups do. They give residents a way to share their (perhaps niche) interests and independently build relationships with others. Here are three ways you can help lay the groundwork for that relationship-building in your community.
1. Recommit to Your Own Life Enrichment Program
Seems somewhat counterintuitive, right? How does recommitting to your life enrichment programming help senior living residents come up with their own? It creates scaffolding for residents to build their own groups. This scaffolding works in two ways:
1. Models effective life enrichment and activity planning. When your life enrichment program is top notch, residents pick up on it. You set the standard and highlight important considerations for activity planning. So share them. Residents may not have known, for instance, to consider the different dimensions of wellness when planning an activity. But you do – it’s a building block of your program.
2. Lets residents know what events you typically plan. In many ways, resident-led groups pop up because they fill a gap in a community’s life enrichment program. (Note: this isn’t a bad thing – life enrichment teams need to create calendars that appeal to as many residents as possible, after all.) When you create and share activity calendars with residents, it essentially tells them whether an event they’ve considered throwing makes sense to throw.
For example, maybe residents have considered starting a yoga club. But after seeing your activity calendar filled with ongoing yoga classes, they decide to hold off. Or they might create it and use your classes as a jumping off point, treating the resident-led yoga group as a “201 class.”
Of course, it takes more than modeling effective planning strategies and sharing your activity calendar for residents to lead their own groups. You’ll also want to…
2. Adopt Senior Living Tech That Improves the Activity Planning Process for Residents
Life enrichment planning is no small feat. But it’s a lot easier when you have the appropriate tools backing you up. That reality extends to senior living residents, too.
To be clear, your residents won’t need the enterprise reporting or robust analytics that members of your life enrichment team do. But senior living technology, like resident engagement platforms, can streamline the event planning process. In a matter of clicks – and with the right platform – your residents can host events, create private groups, and share ideas or photos with those private groups.
Why is this technology adoption so beneficial for residents? Because these platforms offer various capabilities and a unified experience. Residents don’t need to worry about learning different operating systems (Google vs. Outlook vs. Apple) or seeing alternate menu options. The engagement platform is the same for everyone. That makes the tool easier to understand, which makes it easier for residents to plan and enjoy the activities they, and their friends, lead.
3. Get Staff Members Involved – As Needed
“Resident-led” ≠ residents being on their own. You want residents to feel empowered and independent – not like they’re on an island.
In practice, staff involvement may vary by community and resident-led group. For instance, a tech committee might benefit from staff members’ attendance every once in a while. Staff can see how residents interact with the technology, which may inform training sessions down the line. Plus, residents can share technology tips and tricks they’ve picked up, which can even help staff better understand the platforms they use. (Reminder: older adults aren’t as tech-averse as people think.)
Staff involvement may look a bit more hands-on, as well. You want to make sure residents feel comfortable owning the events they plan. But they might, occasionally, need a bit of assistance. Maybe this means setting up a digital display in a common area for that Daytona 500 viewing party. Maybe residents organize a baking competition and need impartial judges (your staff) to choose a winner. Whatever the ask, you’ll want your staff there to lend a helping hand.
Resident-Led Groups Are a Part of Your Community’s Life Enrichment Program
It’s easy to view resident-led groups as distinct from your life enrichment program. You’re not running them. But they are a reflection of the life enrichment activities you plan. Like we said earlier, your residents create their own groups when they see a social engagement opportunity that hasn’t been explored fully.
The philosophical reason you should view resident-led groups as an extension of your life enrichment program is simple: they target the same thing. Both resident- and community-led programming exists to engage residents and make them feel like a part of your community.Want to learn more about fostering resident-led groups in your community? Give us a shout – or request a demo of our engagement technology!