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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

Making the Transition to Assisted Living

The first time you leave your mom or dad (or both) at an assisted living is similar to leaving your child at pre-school or daycare. It’s frightening. Even though you know in your heart that it’s the right thing to do, you feel anxious, indecisive and – in all probability – a bit guilty. Certainly, that’s a typical reaction, but there are things you can do to make those first days and weeks as seamless as possible. Below, from Assisted Living Nationwide, are a few tips to consider:

Visit the assisted living for lunch or dinner a few days prior to the move-in

Ask the staff to introduce your mom or dad to a few residents and other staff members. This allows you both to become familiar with the dining room and the residents. Plan your visit for a week day, when most residents are on-site.


Establish lines of communication with the Executive Director and Director of Resident Care

They will have first-hand knowledge of your family member and can address any concerns or monitor the transition. Determine whether email or phone calls are the best option; feel free to ask as many questions as need be.


Personalize the apartment so it’s warm and inviting

It’s important to mix prized possession s like photos, artworks and memorabilia with new accent pieces and decorative touches. Photo collages are the perfect wall décor, adding color and familiarity.


Check in with your mom or dad — within reason

Calling every few minutes or even hours will not help the residents during the transition. Set a schedule that works for both of your schedules during the first few weeks.


Don’t ask about the food!

You will hear about it no matter what. Food is the most popular topic on a daily basis.