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Today’s Assisted Living Facilities

There’s more than Bingo at today’s Assisted Living Facilities. These days senior care facilities offer more activities than ever before. Below is an excerpt from Rick Weisberg’s Senior Solutions column which details the available options.

Q: My mother has always been a fairly active person, but over the last year, my brother and I have noticed that she sits at home alone most of the time. She is 85 and we are considering moving her into an assisted living facility (ALF) so she’ll be with other people. Can you describe some of the activities and programs that assisted livings typically offer their residents?

A: Isolation is a very real – and serious –problem for seniors as they age at home. One the key reasons many seniors (and their families) decide upon a move to an assisted living revolves around socialization. Today’s assisted living facilities offer more activities than ever before. As seniors get older, it becomes harder to maintain contact with their friends. Their social circle becomes smaller and smaller.

The good news is that today’s assisted livings offer a myriad of social and recreational activities. As one would expect, card games such as Bingo, canasta and poker are a popular activity for seniors. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. These games stimulate brain activity and provide an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon or evening.  But the scope of activities offered at an ALF goes way beyond card games.

Classes and lectures span a multitude of topics. Most ALF’s offer regular exercise classes:  low-impact aerobics exercises, strength training with light weights and bands, flexibility and balance classes, dancing, walking clubs and yoga. Computer classes have become increasingly popular and are usually encouraged by the senior’s family.  One of the well-attended sessions: current events. These talks are quite lively – especially these days!

Dancing at Assisted Living Facilities

Music therapy has been shown to help some seniors restore and maintain their health. Most assisted livings offer programs and activities focusing on music.  For example, pianists are often brought in to play and sing classic songs and show tunes. Surprisingly – or at least it was to me –Activity Directors are also accomplished musicians. I have seen many events where the Activities Director has been instrumental in persuading the residents to sing and dance. The fact remains that people love music!

Let’s not forget the universal appeal of animals. Pet therapy has become extremely prevalent over the last few years.  Studies have shown that animals positively impact the physical and mental well-being of seniors.

An important part of the socialization process at assisted livings – and one of the most rewarding –are the intergenerational programs. The residents and children who visit form emotional bonds that create memories for both. They create art projects together or perform in plays. Studies have shown that seniors are often in better spirits after spending time with children, suggesting such interactions may have lasting effects.

Residents also look forward to scheduled trips such as museum and movie outings, shopping and bus tours of historical sights. Restaurants trips are a weekly occurrence at most assisted livings. The trips are planned well in advanced, with adequate staff members in attendance.

Clearly, there are numerous socialization options for residents. Every resident is different and participation varies from senior to senior. But with a little encouragement from staff and family members, your mom will most likely partake in some of the daily activities. And you and your brother will feel better knowing she is not alone.

Activities at Today’s Assisted Living Facilities

Senior Solutions: When Parents Can No Longer Live Alone




by Rick Weisberg

Special to the Journal

Published February 18, 2016, issue of February 18, 2016.

“Senior Solutions” addresses what to do when parents can no longer live alone? The phrase “it’s complicated” probably sums it up best. Emotions can run high even in the most well-adjusted families when discussing senior living options, support services, health and financial issues.  In this column, we’ll address frequently asked questions by seniors and their families.

Q: We recently moved my mom into an assisted living facility close to my sister and me. She seems happy, but steadfastly refuses to participate in any of the activities. Should we continue to encourage her – or just let her be?

A: Activities do play an important role in an assisted living, but keep in mind they are only one component of the day-to-day routine. In fact, meals times are probably the most social activity and a great way to create friendships. (Reviews of the food are always a lively topic of conversation!) Talk to the Executive Director and/or Wellness Director and ask their opinion as to how your mom is adjusting to her new environment.

Q: What is the difference between a nursing home and an assisted living facility? Also, how do I know if my father meets the criteria to live in assisted living?

A: Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, provide 24-hour, round the clock nursing care. Residents live in one room, often shared – as opposed to apartments. Assisted living facilities offer studios, one bedroom or, in some cases, two bedroom apartments with a support staff such as a Wellness Director (RN) and aides to help residents with the activities of daily living. In terms of eligibility, all assisted living facilities will conduct a medical assessment to determine if an individual qualifies to live in an assisted living.

Q: My mother and father are both in their early eighties. What should our family do now to plan for their future?

A: The first step is to organize a family meeting with your parents and discuss where they envision themselves living as they get older. It’s best not to wait until a crisis such as a fall or illness occurs and you are literally forced to make a decision within days. Of course, this is easier said than done. None of us really want to think about the time when our parents can no longer live alone.

Q: My husband passed away 10 years ago and I moved into a two bedroom condo. I am 85, live alone – and love it! The problem is that both my children live out-of-state and have been pressuring me to move into an assisted living. I know they worry about me, but I treasure my privacy. Are there steps I can take to reassure them while remaining in my home?

A: You sound like you are enjoying your life. Certainly there’s no reason to make a change if you’re able to live independently, but there are steps you can take to ensure your safety, and allow your children to worry less. For example, make sure your home is equipped with medical alert buttons, safety devices in the bathroom and activity sensors. Many families work out a schedule where family member(s) will call in the morning, at lunchtime and again in the evening. It’s important to check in often. Plus, hearing a loved one’s voice – even for a few minutes – can create a special bond for both the senior and the family member.

Rick Weisberg is president of Assisted Living Nationwide, a firm that helps seniors and their families find the most appropriate assisted living facility, based on the family’s criteria, free of charge. “Senior Solutions” appears monthly in the Jewish Journal. Contact Rick at