Beyond Bingo: Activities at Senior Centers Today
Last Updated: December 17, 2019
“If my mother moves to a senior living community, she will be cared for, safe and well-fed, but those facts alone do not mean she will be happy.” These are common thoughts for caregivers to have if they are considering senior care for a loved one.
Learn more about the activities at senior centers that allow seniors to be happy and healthy today.
Why Pursue Senior Activities?
People have the same basic needs as at any age — the need to explore, have fun, learn, and live life to the fullest. Social isolation increases a senior’s risk of dementia and other health problems and can even shorten life expectancy.1 That’s why the importance of activities at senior centers — particularly in assisted living and independent living — cannot be exaggerated.
People Who Participate in Senior Activities Are Generally Happier
The activities provided at senior centers do more than just pass the time. They contribute to the overall happiness of the seniors involved. Surveys indicate that seniors who engage in social activities for six hours or more per day are happier than those who do not engage in social activities. All the more reason to find fun and stimulating programs for your loved one.
Senior centers today, recognizing that residents’ abilities and tastes vary, try to offer something for everyone and allow residents to choose from an array of enriching activities.
What Are Some Activities for Senior Citizens?
A Place for Mom spoke with a few of our partner communities to learn more about the activities and programs their residents enjoy.
Classes and workshops
Lifelong learning opportunities are a crucial ingredient in a great senior activities program. MacKenzie Place in Fort Collins, Colorado, offers painting and sign language classes to its residents. Book clubs, computer classes, foreign language classes, and writing workshops are also a hit at many senior centers.
Dancing remains ever-popular at senior communities and is a daily event for most. Assisted living and independent living residents often enjoy ballroom dancing, line dancing, swing dancing, and more. Dancing is not only fun, but it also keeps residents fit. Not to mention, it’s also an excellent social opportunity.
Entertainment is a mainstay of most senior centers and provides a lot of fun for residents and visitors. If a Frank Sinatra impersonator isn’t up your alley, try a luau with a fire thrower and Hawaiian dancers, an event offered at the Peaks at Santa Rita in Green Valley, Arizona. Other live entertainment frequently offered by senior communities includes drama groups, stand up comedy, and visiting choirs. If dance and song isn’t your thing, MacKenzie Place even recently hosted a pedigree dog show for its residents.
Exercise can help seniors fight depression, increase mobility, and relieve dementia symptoms. That is why fitness at senior centers today involves a lot more than “the morning stretch.” Tai Chi and yoga are now some of the most popular gentle senior fitness classes across the country. Residents at MacKenzie Place even enjoy Zumba. Today’s senior communities strive to make fitness fun (and dignified) in order to encourage residents to view exercise as a pleasure.
There’s no such thing as bad singing if it comes from the heart. Singing is great for the soul. Many senior communities stage their own “American Idol”-type competitions, but even old-fashioned karaoke is a blast. The activities director at the Peaks at Santa Rita in Green Valley, Arizona, says that her residents “love karaoke.”
Often, events are holiday-themed, but no special occasion is needed to have fun. MacKenzie Place recently held a carnival for residents with a bouncy castle, cotton candy and dunk tanks. Edgewood Point in Beaverton, Oregon, held a classic car show for its residents last month.
A video game system made by Nintendo, the Wii allows you to interact with the game by moving your body rather than manipulating a joystick. It may sound tricky, but senior community residents will tell you otherwise. Residents have found the Wii easy to use, fun and downright addictive. Games such as Wii baseball, bowling and tennis are easy, fun and safe competitive outlets for seniors for whom the real thing would be impractical or unsafe. Similar devices, such as the Xbox Connect, are also popular at senior centers across the country.
What Activities Can I Do With Senior Citizens
Senior communities frequently host field trips to concerts, museums, sports events and shows. Recently, during a sports-themed week, residents at Meadow Lark Estates in Kansas not only toured the University of Kansas Football Stadium but they were also treated to a “Football 101” course from a University of Kansas football coach, teaching them the nuances of the game to help them more fully appreciate the sport as spectators. Often, friends and family can join in the field trips and make memories with their senior loved ones.
People of all ages need opportunities to breathe fresh, clean air and immerse themselves in nature — smell a wildflower or walk among the trees. Senior communities recognize this and offer frequent outdoor excursions. For example, residents at the Peaks at Santa Rita enjoy weekly picnics at Lake Patagonia, Madera Canyon and even Mount Lemmon. You may be able to take your special senior on additional excursions to places of local interest.
A Walk Down Memory Lane
Bringing photographs or singing songs with your loved one is a perfect activity to enjoy when you visit the senior center. Listening to stories or telling some of your own can be a connection you can share.
Engaging Reluctant Senior Citizens
Despite all the fun activities available at senior centers, your loved one may be reluctant to engage. Health problems, including dementia and challenges with mental health, may cause seniors to withdraw from social life. Many struggle with the change in routine or feel anxious about meeting new people. You may be able to help engage your reluctant loved one by gradually introducing him or her to new activities. Choose a special event that will have a lot of meaning and use that as a way to introduce them to the new social setting. Keeping things positive can go a long way toward encouraging seniors to be more socially active and to participate in fun programs more regularly.2
There’s an infinite variety of activities within the thousands of senior communities in A Place for Mom’s network. The activities we highlight here are just a small sampling, but clearly show how senior communities have moved beyond bingo in providing fun and stimulating outlets for seniors.
Interested in finding out what activities are offered near you? Contact a Senior Living Advisor who can provide you with local activities at senior centers that will keep you happy and involved.
1Anderson, J. (2018, October 5). 14 Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Social Isolation. Retrieved from https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/for-professionals/03-21-2016/help-seniors-avoid-social-isolation/.
2Survey Finds that Socially Active Seniors are Happier. (2012, January 12). Retrieved November 6, 2019, from https://www.leadingageil.org/portals/0/pdf/weeksnews/2012/jan12/12 Survey Finds Social Seniors Happier 01-16-12.pdf.
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