Senior Living Engagement Programs: Senior Living Programs with a Purpose



question-symbol Why is your activity calendar structured the way it is? What is the underlying purpose?

Why it matters: All programs should have a purpose—and that purpose shouldn’t just be to pass the time.

At Benchmark communities, for example, all programs are designed to engage residents in the six dimensions of wellness promoted by The National Wellness Institute: intellectual, social, physical, emotional, sense of purpose, and spiritual.

Intellectual and social experiences may include concerts, book discussions, cultural programs, food demonstrations, educational seminars, and more.

Physical programming may include fitness classes, strength and balance programs, creative movement, yoga, and walking clubs.

Programs that generate a sense of purpose may include community service projects, cooking, gardening, providing companionship or assistance to a neighboring resident, and assisting with event planning.

To promote spiritual wellness, senior living communities discuss inspirational quotes, words of wisdom and may offer religious services for a variety of faith backgrounds.

During a tour or visit, be sure to request a copy of the community’s calendar to review the types of programs available, in order to match individual interests and abilities to the activities scheduled.

Rachel-FrancineRachel Francine of Musical Health Technologies offers these guiding questions to evaluate programming when considering communities for Mom or Dad: 

circleAre residents getting enough exercise both physical and neurologically, to maintain good health?

circleWill residents be able to connect with friends who have similar interests? 

circleAre there events that will attract residents’ families to come visit, with the goals of creating positive lifelong memories for children and grandchildren — and the best possible life for residents?

Francine also believes in the following best practices when it comes to implementing high-quality programming in senior living communities:

circleIf consistent, quality, therapeutic results are desired then there needs to be a commitment to offering the programming several times per week.

circleBecause of high rates of staff turnover, programming should have built in training programs to ensure the least possible disruption for residents.

circleMemory care programming should be person-centered and focused on the arts and sensory/tactile therapies.

colin-miller-50Colin Milner, CEO/Founder, International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) reminds families to also think about best practices in terms of “what’s best for Mom” or whomever is considering senior living.

“Whether you are looking for evidenced-based programs that can help Dad improve his physical, cognitive, or social function, or if Mom is seeking new ways to connect or learn new skills, always ask what kind of results have been achieved with these programs for someone like your Mom or Dad — not for someone else,” recommends Milner.

He also suggests asking whether the specific practices or programs can be customized to meet or exceed a loved one’s individual needs, wants, aspirations, and expectations. For example, certain exercise classes may be below your dad’s physical capabilities. “If these classes do not challenge him, his results could be reduced, making it difficult to achieve his goals,” says Milner. “Be sure the evidence is supported by the personalization of the programs: that’s [truly] a best practice,” he adds.

The 2018 Four ICAA Innovator Award Winners are:

By asking the questions above and measuring programs at prospective communities with these best practice principles, families can make a more informed, more empowered decision for senior family members. 

Stay tuned for more tips and insights at Open Conversations
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Content for Open Conversations was developed in partnership with Caregiving Advice.

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